State railroad agency Bane NOR had been alerted to grazing reindeer along a stretch of its Nordlandsbanen line through Helgeland over the weekend, but Bane NOR officials never managed to pass on the warning to those operating the trains themselves. Three of them thus crashed right into the herds, killing 106 reindeer over the past several days and leaving a proverbial bloodbath in their wake.
The gruesome collisions occurred between Thursday and Saturday and the owner of the herd, Ole Henrik Kappfjell, told state broadcaster NRK that he was so upset “I nearly become dizzy.” Bane NOR’s failure to caution railway operators at NSB to reduce speed through the area led to a major animal tragedy near the Kvalsfors bridge between Eiterstrøm and Mosjøen.
One of Kappfjell’s free-grazing animals was left hanging from the locomotive and dragged northward with the train all the way to the station in Mosjøen. “This was a meaningless tragedy, and we’re suffering a psychological nightmare now,” Kappfjell told NRK. He and other herders had tried to moved the animals away from the tracks, which are not fenced in, but some remote areas are hard to reach even on snowmobiles.
For photos from the site, click here to NRK’s coverage.
Bane Nor officials apologized for their failure to communicate the warnings of reindeer on the tracks to officials of Nordlandsbanen. “The reindeer owner did everything right,” Bane Nor’s local director Thor Brækken told NRK. “He warned us and the warning was entered into the system. Unfortunately it did not reach those on the trains because of a technical problem. When we discovered the message had disappeared, we tried to call the trains, but it was too late.”
Such tragedies are not new, with more than 2,000 animals killed by trains just between 2013 and 2016. Calls have gone out for fences at least along a 25-kilometer section of the tracks, but Bane NOR (formerly Jernbaneverket) has never budgeted for them.