A deadly collision between a passenger and freight train has killed at least three people and injured over 40 at Hermalle-sous-Huy, in Eastern Belgium late on the evening of Sunday 5th June. The passenger train crashed into the rear of the freight train, both were on the same track. Frederic Sacre, a spokesman for Infrabel, the company that manages Belgium’s rail network, told La Libre Belgique newspaper that; "the collision derailed two of the six carriages". The passenger train had been travelling at 55mph.
A crisis centre was established has now been established at the site. Mr Dejon, mayor of the nearby town of Saint-Georges-sur-Meuse, told Belgian news agency Belga; "The passenger train is really in a bad way, it's stunning.The front carriage is scrunched back up on itself. We were very lucky not to have more victims."
The cause of the accident is not immediately clear. Frederic Sacre stated that installations in the area “were hit by lightning” earlier on the Sunday but there’s been no further detail on the possibility of that being a factor. Belgium has been hit by widespread industrial action across its rail network in recent weeks but there is no suggestion so far that was a factor in this crash.
The official SNCB Twitter account ( @SNCB ) reported weather problems and “signals disruption” on the line through Sunday, but it appears all the problems had been solved by the time of the crash.
Belgian trains are fitted with train protection system, the TBL1 + (Transmission Beacon Locomotive 1+). According to details on ths Infrabel website, The TBL1+ system consists of a beacon placed in the track that emits an electromagnetic signal. This signal is received by an antenna underneath the driver's cab. When the driver approaches a red signal, the support system activates a light in the cab. The driver must then acknowledge that he has received the warning by pressing a button.
What happens if he does not do so? The emergency brake is automatically activated. This also happens if the driver has acknowledged the warning, but the train is still approaching the red signal too fast. If the train is still travelling at more than 40 km/h when it is 300 metres from a red signal, the device automatically stops the train. So, thanks to TBL1+, the risk of passing a red signal is greatly reduced.
The equipment used for TBL1+ is compatible with the European ETCS system. Switching over from TBL1+ to ETCS requires only a simple modification.
"The investigations are complex because they involve not only the infrastructure but also the train hardware" concludes Sacre on Belga.
The Halle train collision in Belgium in February 2010, which killed 18 people, involved two passengers trains was the worst rail accident in the country for over 50 years. In 2013, two people died and 14 were injured when a train carrying toxic, flammable chemicals derailed and caused a fire near Ghent.
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