Profit needs ‘pressure NS rail safety’
25 May 2004
AMSTERDAM — The need for profits is placing a strain on rail safety and riding through red lights is linked to punctuality being demanded and enforced by fines on Dutch rail operator NS, it was claimed on Tuesday.
Speaking after the serious train accident at Amsterdam Central on Friday, an official with trade union FNV Bondgenoten, Andries van de Berg, said if punctuality improves, the NS can demand higher ticket prices.
Van de Berg said trains are often allowed to depart from a station, but drivers are confronted 200m further up by a red light, news agency ANP reported.
Twenty percent of cases involving trains riding through red lights are blamed on drivers assuming incorrectly that the following signal will not be red.
Van de Berg urged for the re-introduction of the situation where trains are only allowed to depart when all signals on the route are green. That will negatively impact punctuality and station capacity problems will have to be put up with.
The Transport Ministry said train drivers ran through red lights 281 times last year. The Socialist Party (SP) is thus also calling for the reintroduction of the system allowing trains to depart only when all signals are green.
Twenty people were injured when an intercity train collided with a stationary double-decker at about 6.30pm on Friday.
The railway division of the Transport Ministry and the Council for Transport Safety are investigating the accident, which might have been caused by a track change error. It has also been suggested that the intercity passed through a red light.
Christian Democrat CDA and Labour PvdA MPs are also demanding the introduction of the expensive European rail management system (ERMTS) to replace the automated ATB system. This will cost EUR 4 billion.
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.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news