Human error behind fatal train crash

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A state commission investigating the cause of a fatal, bizarre accident involving runaway trains in Oslo earlier this spring has concluded that human error was largely to blame. Three persons were killed when 16 boxcars rolled out of control for several kilometers in March.

The state Havarikommisjon, appointed immediately to determine how such an accident could occur, pointed to a “misunderstanding” between managers at the Alnabru terminal in Oslo.

One manager in charge of moving trains in and out of the terminal wasn’t informed about how many shift operations would be carried out. As a result, box cars weren’t secured properly and one set started rolling out of the terminal area on its own.

Hindrances on the rails themselves weren’t adequate to stop the heavy, rolling rail cars, and they ultimately built up momentum and got on a track leading from the terminal down to the harbor area on the Oslo Fjord. The sheer vertical drop on those tracks increased the rail cars’ speed and they plowed through a building near the waterfront before several finally crashed into the sea. 

Investigators also determined that standards for communication at the terminal, so-called “readback” of train movements, aren’t adequately worked out. Restructuring and an increase in cargo traffic at the terminal also has “reduced safety margins” in order move traffic efficiently, according to the report.

The commission recommended that state railroad Jernbaneverket immediately improve barriers on the tracks to prevent rail cars from rolling out of control out of the terminal area. The rails cars on March 24 managed to get through four existing barriers on their wild ride to the harbor.

State railroad director Elisabeth Enger told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that it was “important to know what happened, and set up measures to prevent it from happening again.”

Views and News staff