Monday, 15 February 2010

Death toll mounts after trains crash

train crash Halle

Belgian authorities are saying that at least ten people are confirmed as dead after two commuter trains crashed into each other at Buizingen, near Halle, ten miles south of Brussels. Horrific images of mangled train bodywork, pantographs and overhead line equipment dominated TV news bulletins this morning.

Emergency services are still believed to be removing people from the wreckage (15.30 GMT). Eurostar services between Brussels and London's St Pancras International and high speed Paris-Brussels connections have been cancelled. 

Delays are likely to occur for several days as accident investigators examine and recover evidence. Only then can the trains and wreckage be cleared and work begun to repair and replace the damaged track and overhead lines. 

It's worth noting that the Rail Safety and Standards Board’s Overview of safety performance for 2009, published on 2 February, contained evidence of “further improvements in safety on Britain’s railways during last year”, highlighting that the risk of passengers or rail staff dying in train accidents had dropped by over 80% during the last decade. In 2009, there were no passengers or rail staff killed in train accidents in Britain - the fourth year in the last five with no such fatalities. Rail is regarded across Europe as far safer than road travel.

The accident occurs at a time when the British government is putting the final touches to its plans to effectively extend the European high speed rail network to the Midlands, North and to Scotland with High Speed 2. A White Paper is expected next month. High Speed 1 already connects St. Pancras International with Paris and Brussels. 

Top photo: Thierry Roge, Reuters
Left: Map of European high speed rail network displayed at Ebbsfleet International station in north Kent.

Paul Coleman, London, February 2010.

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