Runaway train unleashes huge fines

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Norwegian railroad agency Jernbaneverket and a railway freight company were slapped with fines totaling NOK 22 million on Tuesday, because of negligence tied to a fatal accident last winter involving a runaway train.

The train, consisting of a long string of heavy boxcars, started rolling on its own from the large Alnabru terminal last March, gathering speed as it careened out of control down tracks leading to a harbor terminal, where it crashed into a warehouse and ultimately into the Oslo Fjord at Sjursøya.

Three persons were killed in the accident that shocked railroad personnel and transport workers all along the route.

An investigation into the accident determined it was the result of human error and an accident commission’s results were turned over to prosecutors, along with the results of a police investigation.

The state prosecutor issued fines of NOK 15 million against the railroad and NOK 7 million against CargoNet AS, which operated the trains involved. State authorities claimed that neither Jernbaneverket nor CargoNet had taken necessary precautions that would have prevented such an accident from occurring.

The fines were issued for contributing to the deaths of three persons and seriously injuring four others, along with violating safety rules decreed by the railroad.

Specific charges included lack of routines for preventing misunderstandings in oral communication between those running the locomotives and those in charge of the tracks, deficient use of handbrakes on the railroad cars and limited opportunities for stopping a train once it started rolling outside the terminal area.

No individuals were fined, but one employee of Jernbaneverket was criticized.

The son of one of the men killed in the accident said he and his family were satisfied by the large fines, but wished more individuals had been held responsible for the accident instead of “simply moving state money from one account to another.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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