Czech train derails, at least one dead

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Local news websites published pictures of badly damaged City Elefant double deck cars similar to this vehicle
Image: ŠJů (Czech Wikipedia).

According to media reports, at least one person was killed and several more were injured when a train derailed in the Czech Republic yesterday. The incident occurred near Ústí nad Labem in the north of the country.

Ústí is an industrial city in the Elbe river valley
Image: User:Miaow Miaow (Wikimedia Commons).

As a result of the crash, the train was seriously damaged. At least six people were injured with wounds of varying seriousness, all of which were hospitalised; conflicting media reports, however, suggested that the number of hurt passengers was substantially more. According to Czech media, the dead man was the train's driver.

According to the press-secretary of the local fire department, the train went off the rails a few hundred metres from the station.

Preliminary investigation has revealed that the train derailed when crossing a railroad switch 58 km/h faster than authorized. The safe speed limit is 120 km/h when the switch, also known as a turnout or a set of points, is set to a straight path, and 50 km/h when the switch is set to divert the train to another track. In this case, the switch was set to divert, but the train's speed is reported to have been 108 km/h.

The accident happened on one of the most important railroads in the country, which is double-tracked, electrified and used daily by long-distance international trains. Therefore it is checked often, and investigators consider track failure to be improbable. Investigators have ruled out signal malfunction. Media reports suggest two possible reasons for the derailment: driver's error or brake malfunction.

Train operations on the line from Ústí nad Labem to the capital Prague had to be cancelled as a result of the crash.