Sloterdijk train collision
The two trains involved in the collision near Westerpark
|Date||21 April 2012|
|Time||18:30 local time (16:30 UTC)|
|Rail line||Oude Lijn|
|Type of incident||Head-on collision|
|Injuries||116 (12 critical, 43 or 44 serious, < 60 minor)|
On 21 April 2012 at 18:30 local time (16:30 UTC), two trains collided head-on at Westerpark, near Sloterdijk, in the west of Amsterdam, Netherlands. Approximately 117 people were injured, one of whom later died in a hospital. The collision is thought to have been caused by the driver of one of the trains having passed a red signal.
In the early evening a local train (an NS Sprinter Lighttrain) had just left Amsterdam Centraal and collided with a double-decker NS VIRM Intercity train travelling in opposite direction on the same track. Initial reports varied with potentially between 33 and 136 passengers injured, with up to 20 of them seriously although a member of the fire service later corrected this to 56. The actual figures were reported at 117 injuries (13 critical, 43 or 44 serious, less than 60 minor). On 22 April, a 68-year-old woman died from her injuries. There were sixteen people still in hospital. On Wednesday 23 May, the last train victim in hospital was sent home.
The trains involved were an NS Class 2600 electric multiple unit, number 2658, and an NS VIRM double-deck electric multiple unit, number 8711. Neither of the two trains derailed. Passengers were reported to have been thrown against walls, seats, windows, and other passengers. Just before the crash, witnesses said one of the trains sounded a long hoot of its horn. Photographs show that the VIRM unit received moderate damage, with deformation at the rear of the first and front of the second carriage.
The accident occurred between Amsterdam Centraal and Amsterdam Sloterdijk stations, near Westerpark, suspending railway services between Amsterdam and The Hague as well as to Schiphol Airport on one of the busiest rail routes in the Netherlands. The local train was travelling between Amsterdam and Uitgeest whilst the Intercity train was travelling between Den Helder and Nijmegen. By Sunday afternoon, traffic was partially restored with a full service expected by that evening. The stretch of line where the accident occurred is where trains do not travel at full speed. It is estimated that at the moment of the collision the intercity was travelling at 25–30 km/h (16–19 mph) and the local train at about 20 km/h (12 mph).  Bus services were laid on to get people to their destinations during the suspension.
Emergency services were swiftly on the scene. Many people were rescued from the train wreckage either by using cranes or by being placed in a protective wrap, with some carried out on stretchers. A trauma helicopter was used to take some of the people to a nearby hospital. Many of the injured were treated on a bridge nearby. Those that had only minor injuries were taken to an Amsterdam hotel. People were reported to have suffered broken bones, bruising and neck injuries.
Two separate investigations are being carried out into whether the train collision was by human error or by a technical fault on one of the trains. By 22 April, the damaged trains had been towed away by locomotives allowing technicians to inspect the track for damage. The director of Nederlandse Spoorwegen, Bert Meerstadt, stated it was still too early to guess the actual cause of the incident and it was best to await the concluding observartions of the researches. The Dutch Safety Board (DSB, in Dutch: Onderzoeksraad Voor Veiligheid, OVV) is conducting one of the investigations, whilst the other is being conducted by the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (Inspectie Leefomgeving en Transport, ILT). The data recorders were recovered from both trains.
ILT accident research
The circumstance the driver may have failed to obey a signal at danger was incorporated in the ILT's researches. However, Transport Minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen said to await further researches to see if the initial findings should be confirmed. De Telegraaf reports that the driver may not face prosecution however as a report submitted by ProRail, the operator of the line, to the ILT, showed the signal in question was part of an older system and it is guessed that if it had been one of the more modern signals, fitted with upgraded safety equipment, the train would have stopped in time.
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The Dutch Safety Board research overlooked a number of questions. In particular, they investigated why the trains collided as well as the accident caused over 100 injuries and one fatality considered the marginal speed at the crash site. Prevention of accidents starts with an accurate time schedule. The presence of signal at dangers in regular circumstance has had little priority in the past . The driver as well as the signalman could have intervened but the DSB put in question why they did not do so or why the security system did not activate. Finally it continued to also focus on the visibility of the actual signal.
In December 2012 DSB published its final report. It deduced the accident could be reduced in the driver of the local train missing a signal at danger. The driver fairly expected a stopping signal, but she could have been distracted by a freight train passing nearby. That particular train only carried a single rear light, which she wanted to report.
Shortly after passing the signal at danger the safety system allowed the local train to accelerate to 60 km/h (37 mph). This was the speed limit transmitted to the intercity. Under normal circumstances the second train entering a section of track should short the track circuit, giving both trains a warning, but because of a set of points in the track this didn't happen until the local train passed the points. When the respective drivers suspected the preceding danger, the intercity train travelled at 53 km/h (33 mph) and the local train at 43 km/h (27 mph). By applying the emergency brake the trains managed to decelerate to 25–30 km/h (16–19 mph) and 20 km/h (12 mph) respectively.
There were several contributing factors to the cause and severity of the collision. Because of scheduled maintenance only a single track was available between the lower level platforms of Amsterdam Sloterdijk and Amsterdam Centraal station. In the modified timetable the intercity and the local train were supposed to use that short section of single track only three minutes after each other, for which the local train was supposed to wait for one minute at the signal before passing. Three minutes is the minimum time interval for passages over single track sections allowed by regulation. Because of a delayed freighter train the intercity was two minutes late, causing the trains to arrive at the single track section simultaneously.
The railyard the collision approached is protected using ATB First Generation, which only warns for signals at danger and enforces a low approach speed. An improvement, ATB-Vv (Verbeterde versie or Improved version) exists and could have stopped the local train before passing the signal. Although this system had been installed on the train and the signal in question was planned to support ATB-Vv, it had not been installed there yet. The DSB questioned the slow rate at which ATB-Vv is implemented in the Netherlands.
Despite both trains collided at a low speed the number and severity of the injuries was considerable. After the collision people were catapulted through the train and hit objects such as panels, seats and tables, causing severe injuries, and a single fatality. The DSB argued those objects have not been adequately designed for possible crashes. It recommended train constructors to consider an improved crash-proof design in passenger carriages.
- Automatische treinbeïnvloeding (ATB) a Dutch train protection system
- List of rail accidents (2010–2019)
- Train protection system (TPS)
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Een 68-jarige vrouw uit het oosten van het land is overleden aan de verwondingen die zij gisteren opliep tijdens het treinongeluk. (A 68-year-old woman from the east of the country has died of wounds suffered during yesterdays train accident.
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Ter hoogte van het Westerpark zijn zaterdagavond rond 18.30 uur een stoptrein en een sneltrein frontaal tegen elkaar aan gebotst (Saturday evening around 18:30 in the Westerpark area a slow train and a fast train collided in a frontal collision)
- Hawley, Caroline (21 April 2012). "Netherlands train crash: Scores injured near Amsterdam". BBC News. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sloterdijk train collision.|
- Dutch Safety Board
- "COLLISION BETWEEN INTERCITY AND SPRINTER, AMSTERDAM, 21ST APRIL 2012." - Includes link to final report
- (Dutch) "TREINBOTSING TUSSEN INTERCITY EN SPRINTER, AMSTERDAM WESTERPARK, 21 APRIL 2012." - Includes link to final report