Halle train collision

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Halle train collision
Details
Date 15 February 2010
Time 08:28 CET (07:28 GMT)
Location Buizingen, Halle
Country Belgium
Rail line line 96 (BrusselsMons)
Operator NMBS/SNCB
Type of incident Collision
Cause Signal passed at danger
Statistics
Trains 2 passenger trains
Passengers 250–300 passengers
Deaths 18
Injuries 162, of whom 11 "very serious"
Damage extensive damage to overhead wiring on line 96

The Halle train collision (also known as the Buizingen train collision) was a collision between two trains in Buizingen, in the municipality of Halle, Flemish Brabant, Belgium, on 15 February 2010.[1][2] It was the railway accident with the worst death toll in over fifty years in Belgium.

Collision[edit]

The trains, carrying 250–300 people, collided in snowy conditions during the morning rush hour.[2][3][4] The collision occurred about 14 kilometres (8.7 mi) from Brussels, on the Brussels–Mons line (line 96).[5] According to a joint statement from the NMBS/SNCB (the Belgian national railway company) and Infrabel (the company responsible for Belgium's railway infrastructure), the trains appear to have collided "laterally" at a set of points at the exit of Halle station on the way to Brussels-North.[6][7]

One of the trains involved was a long-distance service travelling from Quiévrain station to Liège-Guillemins station, which had just left Halle station heading north. The other train was a local service travelling from Leuven station to Braine-le-Comte station, which had just left Buizingen station heading south.

The collision resulted in the first two carriages of one train being forced upwards into the air over the first carriage of the second train.[8] Eyewitnesses described the collision as "brutal", with passengers being thrown "violently" around the carriages. Train services were interrupted along the line where the collision happened.[2][4]

A third train was traveling along a parallel line at the moment of the accident: it was not directly involved in the collision, and its driver managed to stop it without injuries to any of the passengers.[1][9]

Casualties[edit]

Memorial to the 19 victims

Initial reports of casualties were somewhat confused,[2] with the mayor of Halle, Dirk Pieters, saying that at least 20 people had been killed in the crash and other sources quoting a death toll of 25.[10] A more rigorous figure was provided by the government of the Province of Flemish Brabant on the afternoon of 15 February: a provisional death toll of 18 people (15 men and 3 women), based on bodies actually recovered from the wreckage.[4][9] Rescuers discounted the possibility of finding more survivors still trapped in the two trains,[11] and the search for bodies was interrupted at nightfall to resume the next morning.[1][9]

A spokesman for the public prosecutor's office has said that twenty people were seriously injured in the collision.[10] The Governor of Flemish Brabant, Lodewijk De Witte, said that 162 people had been injured: of those, 55 people had been hospitalized, and 11 were in a "very serious" condition.[1][9]

Investigation[edit]

Initial reports suggest that the Leuven–Braine-le-Comte train was on the wrong line, for unknown reasons.[1] During a press conference, Governor De Witte suggested that the train coming from Leuven had ignored a red signal light and thereby caused the accident.[1][12] The director-general of the NMBS/SNCB, Marc Descheemaecker, replied that it was "too early to confirm a hypothesis" and that "[we] will have to carry out a neutral enquiry", but admitted that de Witte's comments were "not unbelievable".[9] Another possibility was raised by the French-language daily Le Soir, who cited a "well informed source" suggesting that a fault in the electricity supply could have caused a signal failure, and hence be behind the accident.[9] The driver of the train survived and will be questioned later by the police.[2]

The Brussels Royal Prosecutor, Bruno Bulthé, announced the appointment of an investigating magistrate, Jeroen Burm, to oversee the judicial enquiry.[11]

A second train passed through the same signal at danger on 11 March, and it again failed inexplicably on the morning of 15 March.[13]

The investigation revealed electrical problems with the red signal, which may have made it less visible. The train was not fitted with additional safety systems which could have reduced the risk.[14]

Damage and service disruption[edit]

A schematic diagram of the railway lines which converge on Halle, indicating the position of the wreckage blocking the southwestern access to Brussels.

The crash caused "major damage" to the overhead contact system, especially on the BrusselsMons and Brussels–Tournai lines.[1] Rail traffic was suspended between Brussels-South and Halle and between Halle and Etterbeek (line 26, a major freight line). Severe disruption to train services was expected throughout much of Wallonia (southern Belgium).[15] It was expected to take two or three days to clear the wreckage, because of the investigation into the accident,[9] and another three days to repair the damage to the lines and overhead cables.[16]

Further disruption was caused on 16 February when rail workers in southern Belgium staged an unofficial strike in protest at what they described as a deterioration in their working conditions.[7] No trains at all were running out of Mons or Tournai, while between a third and a half of trains from Namur and Charleroi to Brussels were cancelled.[17]

The lines at Buizingen are also used by high-speed trains running between Brussels and the French border.[2] All such services between Brussels, France and the UK were immediately suspended,[2] and remained suspended through Tuesday 16 February.[15][16] Thalys, an international high-speed train operator built around the high-speed service between Paris and Brussels, had to divert four of its trains in the region at the time of the accident to alternative stations: it cancelled all its services, including those to Amsterdam and Cologne.[15][16] A limited Thalys service between Brussels and Paris resumed on the evening of 16 February, with trains out of Brussels passing on the single usable line at Buizingen while trains from Paris are diverted via Ghent.[18] Thalys services between Brussels and Cologne resumed 17 February.[18] Other TGV services from France to Brussels terminate at Lille-Flandres,[15][16] just before the Belgian border and the last station before Brussels-South that can accommodate high-speed trains in normal service.

Eurostar, which operates services through the Channel Tunnel, cancelled all its services to and from Brussels, but continued to operate its services between London and Paris and between London and Lille, the latter with delays.[19] A skeleton service of three Eurostar trains a day in each direction between London and Brussels was resumed on 22 February. The trains were diverted via Ghent, causing the journey time to be lengthened by about 50 minutes.[citation needed] The full timetabled service was planned to resume on 1 March 2010.[20]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g "Dodentol van 18 personen bevestigd", De Standaard, 15 February 2010 . (Dutch)
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Belgian train crash: Eighteen people dead in Halle, BBC News, 15 February 2010 .
  3. ^ Twenty Feared Dead in Rush Hour Train Smash, Sky News, 15 February 2010 .
  4. ^ a b c Head-on Brussels train smash kills 18, AFP, 15 February 2010 .
  5. ^ 15-02-2010 Collision entre deux trains à Buizingen, Infrabel, 15 February 2010, retrieved 15 February 2010 . (French)
  6. ^ "Laterale aanrijding volgens Infrabel en NMBS", De Standaard, 16 February 2010, retrieved 16 February 2010 . (Dutch)
  7. ^ a b Rail strike follows Belgian crash, BBC News, 16 February 2010 .
  8. ^ "Twenty-five dead in train crash at Halle?", Flanders News, 15 February 2010 .
  9. ^ a b c d e f g "Hal: 18 morts dans la catastrophe", Le Soir, 15 February 2010 . (French)
  10. ^ a b "La catastrophe de Buizingen, minute par minute", Le Soir (in French), 15 February 2010 
  11. ^ a b "18 doden en 162 gewonden na treinramp Buizingen", De Morgen, 15 February 2010 . (Dutch)
  12. ^ "Gouverneur De Witte: "Trein negeerde stoplicht"", De Morgen, 15 February 2010 . (Dutch)
  13. ^ "Le feu de signalisation de Buizingen à nouveau en panne lundi matin", RTL (in French), 15 March 2010 
  14. ^ "Catastrophe de Buizingen: un nouveau rapport critique la SNCB et Infrabel". RTBF.be. 5 May 2012. Retrieved 13 June 2012. 
  15. ^ a b c d "Nog dagen vertragingen op spoor door treinramp in Halle", De Morgen, 15 February 2010 . (Dutch)
  16. ^ a b c d "Le trafic ferroviaire perturbé pendant plusieurs jours", Le Soir, 15 February 2010 . (French)
  17. ^ "Après le drame, le rail en grève", Le Soir, 16 February 2010 . (French)
  18. ^ a b "Certains Thalys circulent entre Paris et Bruxelles", Le Soir, 16 February 2010 . (French)
  19. ^ Belgian train crash continues to hit Eurostar services, BBC News, 16 February 2010 .
  20. ^ "Eurostar trains to fully resume between UK and Brussels". BBC News Online. 26 February 2010. Retrieved 27 February 2010. 

Coordinates: 50°44′42″N 4°15′6″E / 50.74500°N 4.25167°E / 50.74500; 4.25167