Luxembourg company admits fault in train crash

16th October 2006, Comments 0 comments

LUXEMBOURG, Oct 15, 2006 (AFP) - Luxembourg's state rail company admitted on Sunday that human error on the part of one of its signal employees was to blame for a train collision in northeast France that killed six people.

LUXEMBOURG, Oct 15, 2006 (AFP) - Luxembourg's state rail company admitted on Sunday that human error on the part of one of its signal employees was to blame for a train collision in northeast France that killed six people.

"It's tough to say, but it's the fault of the CFL (rail company Chemins de Fer Luxembourgeois)," Luxembourg Transport Minister Lucien Lux told reporters after a meeting of the rail company's board.

The accident occurred on Wednesday, when a passenger train from Luxembourg carrying around 20 people and a cargo train smashed head-on just 1.5 kilometres south of the Luxembourg border.

The two trains hit each other on a bend as they moved in opposite directions along the same track while a parallel line was undergoing maintenance work.

Apart from the fatalities, 16 people were injured, two seriously.

Lux said the findings of an inquiry into the accident were "inescapable".

"The main responsibility must be assumed on the Luxembourg side, meaning the CFL," he said.

A joint statement by the CFL and its French counterpart, the SNCF, said experts concluded that a CFL officer in a Luxembourg track signalling centre gave the instruction to the passenger train to move on to the single-use track even though the freight train was already on it.

It said "neither the equipment nor the train drivers were to blame."

The general manager of the CFL, Alex Kremer, said the signalling officer in the centre authorised the passenger train to go ahead on the track "for reasons that the inquiry has yet to determine."

The head of the CFL's signalling service, Jean-Marie Franziskus, said "we don't understand why the signalling officer gave this order when he had all the necessary information showing he shouldn't have given the order."

Kremer said the employee, who was put on sick leave after the accident, has been suspended pending further action in the scope of two preliminary murder inquiries that have been opened in France.

He was not identified beyond the facts that he was born in 1970 and worked for the rail company since 1994.

When the signalling centre realised the two trains were headed on a collision course, an alarm was sounded, but the passenger train did not apparently hear it, Franziskus said.

The centre then tried to cut power to the railway line but was unsuccessful because of different electricity systems in use between both countries.

"The trains were travelling at 80 kilometres an hour, and the collision was inevitable" at that point, he said.

France's transport minister, Dominique Perben, said both national rail companies had displayed "very good cooperation" in the investigation and had not tried to duck blame.

"A first step has been made with the identification of a human error," he said.

He added that he hoped the findings would prove useful to prevent a recurrence of such a tragedy.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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