Expatica news

MPs call for new rail safety system

24 May 2004

AMSTERDAM — Dutch MPs are demanding the government adopt a new European railway safety system as quickly as possible following the collision in Amsterdam on Friday in which 20 people were hurt.

Despite costing billions of euros, both the government coalition party Christian Democrat CDA and main opposition rival Labour PvdA agree that the new safety system is necessary. Together the CDA and PvdA hold 86 seats in the 150-seat Lower House of Parliament.

Twenty people were injured, seven seriously, when an intercity passenger train collided head-on with a stationary double-decker at Amsterdam Central Station on Friday. Earlier reports had indicated 27 people were injured.

The last victim, a woman, was finally cut free from the wreckage five hours after the 6.30pm accident. Two of the injured victims were still in hospital on Monday and it is not yet known when they will be released.

Transport Minister Karla Peijs has previously said that the European Rail Train Management System (ERTMS) will be introduced on the high-speed “HSL-south” line and on the Betuwelijn freight route, news agency ANP reported.

But the PvdA and CDA are demanding that the ERTMS system be applied as quickly as possible to the remaining 95 percent of trains in the Netherlands. These trains are currently using the automated ATB system.

CDA MP Eddy van Hijum is demanding Minister Peijs present a step-by-step plan regulating the ERTMS introduction, including costs and the timeframe. PvdA MP Sharon Dijksma demanded a plan from the minister that would improve safety on the most dangerous rail routes.

Besides the ERTMS system, another — albeit temporary — option would be to modernise the present ATB system. But the Transport Ministry claims this would be a waste of government funding if the Netherlands later swapped to the new European system.

The ERTMS system involves the installation of computers in train drivers’ cabs to replace the traditional railway signal. It also includes an automatic braking system that will stop the train if the driver ignores warnings sent to the computer in the cab.

But the high cost of the ERTMS system has in the past held MPs back from demanding its introduction. The Liberal VVD, Democrat D66 and green-left GroenLinks remain opposed to its introduction, newspaper De Volkskrant reported.

Meanwhile, rail network administrator ProRail has backed train safety concerns expressed over the weekend by the chairman of the Council for Transport Safety, Pieter van Vollenhoven. The council chief said the Dutch rail system was faced with a “structural safety shortcoming”.

But a ProRail spokesman said Van Vollenhoven must account for his threat that the council will in future refuse to investigate train accidents.

Van Vollenhoven had warned that train accidents will no longer be investigated if the safety system is not improved in the near future. He said the cause of such accidents could be quickly attributed to current safety risks.

He said the ATB system had inherent faults. For example, the system is not triggered into action if a train is traveling at less than 40kmh, allowing a train to run a red light without the brake system being activated.

The railway division of the Transport Ministry and the Council for Transport Safety are investigating Friday’s accident, which might have been caused by a track change error. It has also been suggested that the intercity passed through a red light.

But the exact cause of the accident remains unclear and the investigation is not expected to be completed for another two months.

ProRail said train travel to and from Amsterdam Central returned to normal on Monday. Repair works to the line were completed overnight.

Fewer trains were operating between Amsterdam and Haarlem, Utrecht, Amersfoort and Almere up until the end of the Sunday evening timetables. The overnight schedule on Sunday operated as normal, Pro Rail said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news