Minister pledges EUR 40m to boost rail safety
26 May 2004
AMSTERDAM — Amid safety concerns after an Amsterdam train collision last week, Transport Minister Karla Peijs announced Tuesday she is to spend EUR 40 million on upgrading the present rail safety system, starting with the busiest routes.
She rejected demands from MPs for an accelerated introduction of an ultramodern European rail safety system. Peijs said the new system — which would costs billions of euros — was simply too expensive, Dutch public news service NOS reported.
Christian Democrat CDA and Labour PvdA MPs had demanded the introduction of the ERTMS system after 20 people were injured when an intercity collided head on with stationary double-decker at Amsterdam Central Station on Friday evening.
Dismissing those demands, the intended modifications outlined by Peijs will make it impossible for trains travelling under 40kmh to run a red light. The present safety system is only triggered when trains are traveling at higher speeds.
It is not yet certain what led to the collision last week, but it has been suggested that the intercity ran a red light. The present ATB safety system only stops trains traveling above 40kmh because collisions at lower speeds were not previously considered dangerous.
A majority of MPs, including the CDA ad PvdA, thus reacted positively to the minister’s plans and her intention to discuss the matter again after the summer, evening newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported.
The minister’s decision is not directly linked to last week’s accident and is instead an intensification of existing policy. A workgroup has been studying rail safety since the start of this year to draw up ways to prevent the rising number of incidents in which train drivers run through red lights.
Meanwhile, Minister Peijs rejected criticism from the chairman of the Council of Transport Safety, Pieter van Vollenhoven, that the Dutch rail system was faced with “structural safety shortcomings”. He has been a long-term critic of Dutch rail safety.
Van Vollenhoven also warned that the council would refuse to investigate train accidents in future if the Dutch government did not agree to introduce a new safety system. He said the causes of such accidents would be plainly obvious.
But Minister Peijs dismissed the criticism as unwise. “The council exists for these investigations,” she said, warning that the government could look for another chairman that would carry out the council’s work.
Peijs refused to speculate about the cause of the Amsterdam accident and the Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, will hold an emergency debate about rail safety on Thursday.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news