Train cleared in recent derailment

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No technical deficiencies have been found on the brand-new Swiss-built train that derailed near Holmestrand last week. State railroad Jernbaneverket, meanwhile, hopes to re-open the commuter line where the accident occurred by the end of the week.

Investigators couldn't find anything wrong with the new "Flirt" train that derailed on a test run last week, and earlier extensive testing was trouble-free. NSB has planned to introduce 50 of the Swiss-built trains on routes in southern Norway. PHOTO: Åge Christoffer Lundeby/NSB

Neither Jernbaneverket, state railway NSB nor state accident investigators could find anything wrong with the train involved, one of the new so-called “Flirt” models that are due to be introduced on regional train routes in southern Norway.

Experts investigating the derailment last Wednesday already have linked it to the high rate of speed at which the train was traveling, 135 kilometers per hour in a 70kph zone. NSB officials have claimed they’re baffled why the train was going so fast with experienced personnel on board. The lack of any trouble with the train’s braking equipment, however, raises questions of human error that investigators so far seem reluctant to answer.

Kurt A Olsen of the state commission investigating the accident (Havarikommisjon) told newspaper Aftenposten that state law prevents him from relating what individuals involved in the accident have said under questioning. The locomotive engineer and all four others on board, from both NSB and train producer Stadler Bussnang AG of Switzerland, have been interviewed.

“In addition, it’s in our mandate that we shall not place blame and responsibility,” Olsen told Aftenposten. “The conversations we’ve had also aren’t supposed to be traceable to any individuals.”

Asked whether investigators have questioned why the train was rolling as fast as it was, Olsen replied: “We ask about a lot of things, but we don’t reveal which questions we ask.” He refused to respond to any questions about why the train was going so fast, whether there was any disagreement among the five men on board the train, or whether they thought the train could navigate the curve where it derailed.

He said such issues will be addressed when the commission’s report is completed. “Right now we have no foundation to determine why the train held the speed it did,” Olsen told Aftenposten. Police won’t reveal the content of the conversations they’ve had with those on board the train either, and NSB officials say they must leave the investigation up to the police and the commission.

The train, valued at NOK 70 million and due to be put into service from March 1, has been declared a complete wreck. It’s a major loss for NSB, and the derailment has delayed implementation of badly needed improvements on train lines in and around Oslo.

The line where the derailment occurred, called Vestfoldbanen, has been closed for the past week but may re-open before the weekend. “We’ve been working day and night to try to get it open this week,” Tor Erik Skarpen of Jernbaneverket told Aftenposten. Tracks were damaged in the derailment, and Skarpen said the repair crews have had to rebuild them, and replace all equipment involved.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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