Doomed train’s engineer ‘distracted’

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The man in charge of a brand-new train due for service on regional lines around Oslo was reportedly “distracted” and failed to see a sign warning him to reduce speed to 70 mph, according to a preliminary accident report. He then hit a curve at around twice that speed, which caused the train to tip over and crash into a hillside.

Reports have circulated at NSB for weeks that the man who was supposed to be in control of the new train on a test run didn’t see the speed limit sign. Nor was he familiar with the route. Those running the daily commuter lines from Tønsberg to Drammen and on to Oslo are said to know that speed needs to be cut in half around Nykirke outside Holmestrand, where the accident occurred last month. Those in charge of test runs aren’t always as familiar with local conditions.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported that the accident report seems to make some excuses for the train’s locomotive engineer who’s been cited by police. Investigators wrote that he had to deal with a lot of commotion, even though only three others were on board the train that was valued at NOK 70 million but a total loss after the crash. They’ve ruled out any trouble with the train itself, but suggest the man in control was distracted by telephone calls, messages, communication with NSB staff in Oslo, with railroad authorities in Drammen and with testing a new public announcement system. That’s why he wasn’t paying attention to the speed limit sign along the tracks.

NSB officials also seemed inclined to support their locomotive engineer. “We’re looking at the working conditions he was under,” an NSB spokesman told Aftenposten. “We already know of two areas where we’ll make changes, including demands for local familiarity (with the tracks) and aspects that can detract from the engineer’s attention.”

Views and News staff