Classification of railway accidents
Classification of railway accidents, both in terms of cause and effect, is a valuable aid in studying rail (and other) accidents to help to prevent similar ones occurring in the future. Systematic investigation for over 150 years has led to the railways' excellent safety record (compared, for example, with road transport).
Ludwig von Stockert (1913) proposed a classification of accidents by their effects (consequences); e.g. head-on collisions, rear-end collisions, derailments. Schneider and Mase (1971) proposed an additional classification by causes; e.g. driver's errors, signalmen's errors, mechanical faults. Similar categorisations had been made by implication in previous books e.g. Rolt (1956), but Stockert's and Schneider/Mase's are more systematic and complete. With minor changes, they represent best knowledge.
Classification of rail accidents by effects
- Head-on collision
- Rear collision
- Slanting collision
- Collisions with buffer stops
- Collisions with obstructions of the track (may also cause derailment)
- Plain track
- Fires, explosions and release of hazardous chemicals (including sabotage/terrorism)
- People falling from trains, collisions with people on tracks
Classification of rail accidents by causes
- Passing signals at danger
- Excessive speed
- Mishandling of the engine (e.g. boiler explosions)
- Failure to check brakes and safety systems as well as sand reserve
- Failure to stop at required positions, e.g. level crossings with defective equipment or shunting movements that lead to occupied tracks.
- Allowing two trains into same occupied block section
- Incorrect operation of signals, points or token equipment
(Mechanical) failure of rolling stock
- Poor design
- Poor maintenance
- Undetected damage
- Overloading or freight that is not adequately secured.
- Fire starting from combustion motors, electric cables or equipment, leaking fuel or cooling oil
Civil engineering failure
Acts of other people
- Other railway personnel (shunters, porters, etc.)
- Non-railway personnel
- Accidental track obstruction e.g. with road vehicles or by working construction vehicles
- Deliberate (vandalism, terrorism, suicide, extortion, sabotage)
- Deliberate track obstruction, e.g. with road vehicles or (heavy) objects
- Intentional damage to infrastructure like tracks, points or signals
- Level crossing misuse
- Track obstruction or damage by landslides, avalanches, floods, trees
- Fog or snow that obscure signals or the current position of the train
- Wet leaves (or their remains) making the tracks slippery.
- Strength of rolling stock
- Fire hazards or dangerous goods in the train, in involved road vehicles or the vicinity
- Effectiveness of brakes
- Inadequate rules
- Ludwig von Stockert (1913), Eisenbahnunfalle (Railway Accidents - a contribution to railway operating technology). Leipzig 1913.
- Schneider, Wolfgang; Armand Mase (1971). Railway Accidents of (Great Britain and) Europe. In German, English translation by E.L. Dellow. David and Charles.
- Rolt, L.T.C. (1956). Red for Danger. Bodley Head / David and Charles / Pan Books. Later editions available.