Suonenjoki rail collision
|Suonenjoki rail collision|
|Date||12 August 1998|
|Cause||Misinterpretation of signals, possible signal malfunction|
The Suonenjoki rail collision occurred on 12 August 1998, when an InterCity train arriving from the north and a freight train arriving from the south collided south of the Suonenjoki railway station in Finland. 26 people were injured, one of them seriously. The rear end of the locomotive of the freight train was pushed high up in the air on top of its first car. The InterCity had six cars and the freight train 41 cars. Both trains were powered by VR Class Sr1 locomotives, which are still in use.
Chronology of events
The InterCity train 72 en route from Iisalmi to Helsinki via Kouvola was scheduled to pass freight train 2051 in Airaksela, 20 kilometres (12 mi) north of Suonenjoki, with the freight train waiting on the passing loop and the InterCity using the main line. On the day of the accident though the freight train was running 30 minutes late. The train dispatcher was planning to make the pass at Suonenjoki railway station, which would delay the departure of the InterCity by 3 minutes. A route was secured for the InterCity to the Suonenjoki railway station, where it was signaled to stop and wait for the freight train to pass the station.
However, before the freight train could arrive at Suonenjoki, the InterCity left the station on schedule at 5:57:01, missing the red "stop" aspect of the signal. Upon noticing the approaching train the drivers of both trains activated the emergency brakes and, when the collision seemed inevitable, jumped off the trains. The dispatcher noticed that the main track was occupied by the wrong train and immediately started calling both trains on radio. No answer was heard, however, as the drivers had already jumped out and the trains collided.
Due to the high velocity of the passenger train – 44 km/h (27 mph) – and the large mass of the freight train, running at 25 km/h (16 mph)) on impact, the collision was violent. The whole InterCity train moved back 4 metres (13 ft) and the first two cars of the freight train were pushed under its locomotive. This forced the rear end of the locomotive to rise high up in the air and touch the overhead lines. The cars luckily remained on the tracks, which were running on a high embankment.
The accident was caused by the driver of the InterCity train ignoring the stop aspect of the main signal. The driver heard the conductor's "ready" bell signal and concentrated on leaving the station by the second. A signal repeater was possibly malfunctioning. Other contributing factors were the bright daylight that prevented the driver from clearly seeing the red signal, and the general "obsession" among InterCity drivers to obey the timetable by the second.
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The two locomotives, Sr1 units 3042 (freight train) and 3031 (InterCity) were refurbished and returned to service.
- Alppivuori, Kari; Aho, Pekka; Värttiö, Esko; Valonen, Kai (1999). B1/1998R Trains colliding at Suonenjoki, on August 12, 1998 (in Finnish and English). Accident Investigation Board of Finland. ISBN 951-836-008-1. ISSN 1239-5323.