2011 Saxony-Anhalt train collision

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2011 Saxony-Anhalt train collision
Track map of the railway
Track map of the railway
Date 29 January 2011
Time ~ 22:25
Location Hordorf, Saxony-Anhalt
Coordinates 52°00′02″N 11°11′30″E / 52.00056°N 11.19167°E / 52.00056; 11.19167Coordinates: 52°00′02″N 11°11′30″E / 52.00056°N 11.19167°E / 52.00056; 11.19167
Country Germany
Rail line Magdeburg–Thale railway
Operator Veolia Verkehr Sachsen-Anhalt GmbH / Verkehrsbetriebe Peine-Salzgitter
Type of incident Collision
Trains 2
Deaths 10
Injuries 23
Route map
passenger train
42.6 crash site
42.8 main signal A
43.2 main signal B
freight train
44.0 distant signal B

The 2011 Saxony-Anhalt train collision occurred on 29 January 2011, when a freight train and a passenger train collided near Hordorf in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany on the Magdeburg–Thale line. The passenger train derailed in the collision. Ten people were killed and 43 people were injured, some of them critically.

Initial reports of 33 injured persons[1][2] were later corrected to 23, some of them critical.[3] Around 100 rescue workers were at the collision site, which is about 200 kilometres (120 mi) west of Berlin.[2]


The local passenger train with about 45 to 50 passengers on board was on a single track at a speed of approximately 100 km/h (62 mph), where it collided head-on in very foggy conditions with the freight train, which had a speed of about 80 km/h (50 mph).[1][4] Both trains had reduced their speeds prior to impact – while the freight train slowed only marginally to 68 km/h (42 mph) the emergency brake of the passenger train allowed it to slow down from 98 to 66 km/h (61 to 41 mph).[5] The impact derailed the passenger train, which fell on its side next to the track. The front part of the passenger train was crushed.[4] The freight train ran on for another 500 metres (1,600 ft) before coming to a halt.

Subsequent investigations showed that the freight train had most likely passed a red signal (as well as the additional distant signal requiring it to slow down and prepare to stop).[5] The track had been planned to be equipped with the PZB automatic train protection system for years; however at the time of the accident it still used only visual signals.[6] When the freight train passed the switch (which was already set for the passenger train) the train director in the interlocking box at Hordorf was alerted[7] – he testified that he had radioed an instruction to stop via Zugbahnfunk but got no response until after the collision (which occurred only seconds later).[5]

Since many people were severely injured, it was considered likely that the death toll could rise in the immediate aftermath of the incident.[4] The nine killed passengers had lived in the Harz region; the killed driver of the passenger train came from Mecklenburg.[8]

Trains involved[edit]

The passenger train involved in the incident was a lightweight Baureihe 648 operated by Harz Elbe Express, which was traveling from Magdeburg to Halberstadt.[4] It had a tare weight of 63.5 t.

The freight train was operated by the Peine-Salzgitter company and carried calcium carbonate.[4] It had a gross weight of about 2700 t pulled by two Vossloh G1700 BB locomotives.


About 100 workers, composed of police and specialized rescue workers, were involved in the rescue efforts.[4] Ambulances were used to transport the wounded, as heavy fog meant helicopters could not operate.[4]

Two days after the incident, it was announced that the engineer of the freight train was being investigated for "alleged involuntary manslaughter" and was under suspicion of failing to stop for a red signal prior to the crash.[9] On 1 February, it was reported that investigators believed that the freight train had passed both a warning and a stop signal prior to the crash.[10] Investigators hoped to question the operator of the freight train, who was in a state of shock at the time, later that week.[10]

In response to the crash, the national rail operator Deutsche Bahn said that it would improve safety systems on all single-track rail lines in the country, including adding automatic braking systems as required.[10] The installation of PZB at Hordorf had already been planned for March 2011 (in order to increase the speed limit to 120 km/h (75 mph) on the track) and it was finally done at the end of May 2011.

The final investigation report was published on 14 September 2011. It excluded any technical problem, summarizing human error as the root cause. The possibility of foggy conditions can not be fully excluded due to the rapid changes of these weather phenomena, but the driver of the preceding train reported a visibility range of 100 to 150 m. Rumors of the train driver being on the second locomotive were rejected in the report as unfounded.[11]

Criminal charges were brought against the train driver on 3 January 2012 and the trial began on 8 October 2012 in Magdeburg with accusations of killing ten persons ("fahrlässige Tötung" criminally negligent manslaughter), injuring 22 persons ("fahrlässige Körperverletzung" criminal battery through culpable negligence) and the railway damages ("Gefährdung des Bahnverkehrs" reckless endangerment of railway traffic).[12][13] On 28 November 2012 the train driver, 41-year-old Titus S., was convicted and sentenced to one year on probation following the proposal of both state attorney and defense. The defense stated however that Deutsche Bahn should bear the main share of the blame for ignoring safety problems on the track that had been known before (a near collision of two passenger trains had occurred a few kilometers away in 2006 leading to a plan for an immediate installation of safety measures, which however was delayed until after the Hordorf collision).[14][15][16] Two joint plaintiffs criticized the result, filing an appeal, which was rejected by the BGH supreme court on 6 August 2013.[17]

The Sixth Railway Regulations Change Act (Sechste Verordnung zur Änderung eisenbahnrechtlicher Vorschriften) as of 25 July 2012 tightens the rules for the EBO railway regulations so that most of the minor railway tracks need to be upgraded with an automatic train stop by 1 December 2014.[18] (requirement is on all infrastructure allowing more than 80 km/h, on all infrastructure with multiple trains and more than 50 km/h, and on all infrastructure with multiple trains and with any passenger service)


  1. ^ a b "German train crash near Magdeburg leaves 10 dead". BBC News. 30 January 2011. Archived from the original on 30 January 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  2. ^ a b "Train crash in Germany kills 10, injures 33". Associated Press. 30 January 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2011. 
  3. ^ Hein, Dörthe; Thomas Struk (30 January 2011). "Hordorf erschüttert: Tragisches Zugunglück gibt viele Rätsel auf". Hamburger Abendblatt (in German). Retrieved 30 January 2011. Laut Polizei wurden 23 Menschen verletzt, einige von ihnen schwer, darunter soll ein zehnjähriges Mädchen sein [According to the police 23 persons were injured, some of them severely, allegedly a ten-year-old girl is among them]. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "10 killed in German train crash, toll could rise". The Detroit News. 30 January 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c "Erster Bericht des Bundesverkehrsministeriums – Lokführer des Unglückszuges überfuhr zwei Signale". Volksstimme. 1 February 2011. Archived from the original on 26 February 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2011. 
  6. ^ Spiegel Online: Bahn und Ministerium wussten seit Jahren von Gefahren der Strecke
  7. ^ Hordorf is a mechanical interlocking and the switch bar will rattle on each wheel kicking the closed switch
    picture of the interlocking box Hordorf with main signal A in front
  8. ^ http://www.sueddeutsche.de/panorama/nach-dem-zugunglueck-in-sachsen-anhalt-alle-todesopfer-identifiziert-1.1053940
  9. ^ "Germany rail crash: goods train driver investigated". BBC News. 31 January 2011. Archived from the original on 31 January 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c "Train Driver Thought to Have Ignored Two Stop Signals". Der Spiegel. 1 February 2011. Retrieved 1 February 2011. 
  11. ^ "Untersuchungsbericht Zugkollision Überleitstelle Hordorf / Strecke Magdeburg Hbf - Halberstadt am 29.01.2011" (PDF). Eisenbahn-Unfalluntersuchungsstelle des Bundes. 2011-09-14. Retrieved 2012-06-07. 
  12. ^ "(LG MD) Zugunglück Hordorf - 25 KLs 162 Js 2742/11 (47/11)". Landgericht Magdeburg - Pressemitteilung Nr.: 053/2012. 2012-09-20. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  13. ^ "Chronologie des Zugunglücks von Hordorf". MDR state TV. 2012-10-07. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  14. ^ http://www.spiegel.de/panorama/justiz/zugunglueck-in-hordorf-lokfuehrer-zu-bewaehrungsstrafe-a-869680.html
  15. ^ http://www.stern.de/panorama/zugunglueck-von-hordorf-lokfuehrer-muss-nicht-ins-gefaengnis-1933331.html
  16. ^ http://www.faz.net/frankfurter-allgemeine-zeitung/ein-kurzer-moment-der-unaufmerksamkeit-11975144.html
  17. ^ "Urteil gegen Unglücks-Lokführer von Hordorf rechtskräftig". Braunschweiger Zeitung. 2013-08-06. Retrieved 2013-08-10. 
  18. ^ "Sechste Verordnung zur Änderung eisenbahnrechtlicher Vorschriften" (PDF). Bundesgesetzblatt. 2012-08-20. p. 1703.