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Great Belt Bridge rail accident

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Great Belt Bridge rail accident
Photograph showing the type of train involved in the accident
Ansaldo Breda IC4 diesel multiple units similar to those involved in the accident
Date2 January 2019
07:35 (CET)
LocationWest Bridge, Great Belt Fixed Link
LineCopenhagen–Fredericia/Taulov Line
OperatorDSB (passenger train)
DB Cargo (freight train)
ServiceInterCityLyn (express train)
Incident typeCollision
CauseCollision with semi-trailer from cargo train (preliminary)

The Great Belt Bridge rail accident occurred on 2 January 2019 on the Great Belt Fixed Link in Denmark when a passenger train collided with a semi-trailer from or on a passing freight train. The Great Belt Fixed Link is an 18 km (11 mi) long bridge–tunnel connection between the Danish islands of Zealand and Funen, and the accident happened on the West Bridge, near Funen. The accident happened during a storm, which had closed down the bridge for road traffic, but not for rail traffic. Eight passengers were killed, all Danish citizens, and 16 were injured, making it the deadliest rail accident in Denmark since 1988.[1]

The accident is under investigation, and the exact cause is unknown. However, investigators have found that in some cases, wagons similar to the one involved in the accident failed to lock the semi-trailers in place. The Danish Transport Authority have temporarily banned these kind of wagons, and tightened the rules for freight on the bridge during windy weather.


The railway on the West Bridge, as viewed towards Sprogø and the East Bridge. The passenger train was on the southern track to the right; the freight train on the northern track to the left.

Due to Storm Alfrida,[1] which hit Denmark on 1 January 2019, the Danish Road Directorate closed the Great Belt Bridge for all road traffic on the night between 1 and 2 January. It was expected to reopen at 11:00 on 2 January.[2] Rail traffic was not restricted.[3] Both road and rail traffic travel by the West Bridge, a low box girder bridge, but the more wind-exposed East Bridge, a suspension bridge, is only for road traffic, as trains here travel by tunnel.[4]

At 07:11, InterCity express ICL 210 departed from Odense headed for Copenhagen. Operated by DSB, it was carrying 131 passengers and a crew of three when it arrived at the western end of the bridge.[5][6] Meanwhile, a freight train operated by DB Cargo with a crew of one,[7] loaded with semi-trailers carrying crates of empty bottles belonging to Carlsberg, was heading in the opposite direction[3] towards the Carlsberg brewery at Fredericia, 72 kilometres (45 mi) to the north west of the crash site.[8]

Shortly before 07:35,[5][9] on the West Bridge of the Great Belt Fixed Link, between the islands of Sprogø and Funen, the passenger train collided with an object initially believed to be a tarpaulin from the freight train,[6] but later that same day identified by Accident Investigation Board Denmark to be an empty semi-trailer from the freight train.[10] The train driver has since said that he noticed sparks lower than usual (i.e. not from the overhead catenary) and that "something big" was hanging from the approaching freight train.[11][12]

The storm and the location of the accident complicated the emergency operation.[1][13] Initially, six casualties were confirmed while the trains were still on the bridge, but after they had been moved to a secluded area, two more bodies were found in the passenger train.[14] Both in relation to the accident and the ongoing storm, the government crisis management organization, the National Operative Staff (NOST) decided to convene.[15]

Eight passengers were killed, five women and three men, and 16 were injured in the accident.[16] None of the wounded had life-threatening injuries, while 14 had minor injuries, and two had moderate injuries.[17] On 4 January, all victims had been identified as Danish citizens, between 27 and 60 years old.[18]

The bridge reopened for road traffic at approximately 12:20 on 2 January. Later that afternoon, the westbound carriageway was briefly closed due to queueing by curious drivers.[19] Rail traffic was restarted at 10:40 on 3 January, when one track opened,[20] and all traffic was normal by the evening.[21]


The investigation is being handled by the Accident Investigation Board Denmark.[22] On 2 January, shortly after the accident, investigator Bo Haaning said the accident was caused by a collision between the passenger train and an empty semi-truck from the freight train. However, he stated that details surrounding this were still uncertain: "It [the trailer] either hit the train, or the train drove into it".[10] The full investigation can take up to a year.[23]

Initial media speculation focused on the weather conditions. At the time of the accident, the wind gusts were measured to be up to 20.9 m/s (69 ft/s), a gale, with average wind speeds lower.[24][25] The wind was coming from the north, orthogonal to the bridge.[26] If the average wind speeds, as measured over 10 minutes, had exceeded 21 m/s, the speed limit for freight trains would be decreased from 120 to 80 km/h (75 to 50 mph), and by 25 m/s (82 ft/s), all traffic would have to be cancelled. Since no limits were exceeded, no restrictions were imposed.[27][28] Both Banedanmark, operators of the Danish railways, and Sund & Bælt, operators of the bridge, said that all procedures had been followed.[29][27] According to Jacob Mann, professor in wind energy at DTU, the wind can not be the only cause of the accident.[26]

The media also focused on whether the semi-trailer was properly secured to the rail wagon. On this type of wagon, a pocket wagon, the front of a semi-trailer is fixed only with its kingpin. The back of the semi-trailer is kept in place as the wheels are lowered into a "pocket".[30] Following the accident, operator DB Cargo temporarily suspended all freight trains carrying bottle crates.[31] The accident resembled an incident in Hamburg, Germany, where a semi-truck that was not properly secured had been dislodged and collided with a bridge pier.[32][33] The European Union Agency for Railways is supposed to forward information relating to serious incidents, but Danish authorities had not been informed about the German accident prior to the Danish accident.[33][34]

On 5 January, the Danish Transport Authority issued a warning about pocket wagons used to transport semi-trailers, on the recommendation of the Accident Investigation Board Denmark, stating that the locking mechanism securing the trailer could pose a safety risk.[35][36] It also requested the Joint Network Secretariat (JNS) to open a formal procedure.[37] On 7 January, a test at DB Cargo showed that, after a semi-trailer had been loaded and secured, it could still be lifted off the wagon.[38] The freight train had been checked prior to departure, and seemed to have been properly secured.[39] The following day, the transport authority temporarily prohibited the use of pocket wagons to transport semi-trailers, and tightened the rules for freight trains crossing the Great Belt, with respect to wind conditions.[40][41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Christoffersen, Jonas Stenbæk; Thomsen, Peter; Nielsen, Jens (2 January 2019). "Togpersonale uden skyld i den værste ulykke i over 30 år" [Train crew not responsible for worst accident in over 30 years]. Berlingske (in Danish). Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  2. ^ Ingvorsen, Emil Søndergård (2 January 2019). "Blæsten lukker Storebæltsbroen" [Wind closes down the Great Belt Bridge]. DR (in Danish). Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  3. ^ a b Christiansen, Flemming (2 January 2019). "Vindstød på Storebælt var tæt på alarmgrænsen, da gods fløj af ulykkestoget" [Wind gusts on the Great Belt were close to the limit, when goods flew off the train from the accident]. Politiken (in Danish). Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  4. ^ Schmidt, Søren Stjerne (2 January 2019). "Sund & Bælt gav grønt lys til øl-tog" [Sund & Bælt gave green lights to the beer-train]. TV2 Fyn (in Danish). Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  5. ^ a b Sørensen, Kaare (2 January 2019). "Det ved vi om ICL 210 og ulykken, der kostede seks livet" [This is what we know about ICL 210 and the accident who cost six lives]. TV 2 (in Danish). Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  6. ^ a b Cockburn, Harry (2 January 2019). "Denmark train crash: Six dead and 16 injured in railway accident on Great Belt Bridge". The Independent. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  7. ^ Herschend, Sofie Synnøve; Moestrup, Jonas H. R.; Møller, Niels Lykke (2 January 2019). "Operatør bag forulykket godstog: - Vi fik grønt signal fra Banedanmark" [Operator behind wrecked freight train: - We were given green lights by Banedanmark]. TV 2 (in Danish). Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  8. ^ Witherow, John, ed. (3 January 2019). "Six die in passenger train crash on Danish bridge". The Times (72734). p. 34. ISSN 0140-0460.
  9. ^ "Train accident on Danish bridge kills six". BBC News. 2 January 2019. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  10. ^ a b Thomsen, Per Bang; Ingvorsen, Emil Søndergård; Himmelstrup, Sophie Brochdorff (2 January 2019). "Havarikommissionen: Tog ramte tom lastvognstrailer" [Accident Investigation Board Denmark: Train hit empty semi-trailer]. DR (in Danish). Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  11. ^ "Advokat: Lokofører så gnister lige før togulykke" [Lawyer: Train driver saw sparks just before train accident]. DR (in Danish). ritzau. 4 January 2019. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  12. ^ Peter, Thomsen; Christoffersen, Jonas Stenbæk; Nielsen, Jens Beck (3 January 2019). "Traileren skar sig gennem toget 20 cm over lokoførerens hoved: »Gud, er du overlevet?«" [The trailer cut through the train 20 cm over the train driver's head: "God, did you survive?"]. Berlingske (in Danish). Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  13. ^ "Fatal train accident closes Denmark's Great Belt Bridge". Deutsche Welle. 2 January 2019. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  14. ^ Mejborn, Katja; Andreasen, Kasper B. (3 January 2019). "Yderligere to personer omkommet ved togulykke på Storebælt" [Two more persons died in train accident on the Great Belt]. TV 2 (in Danish). Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  15. ^ "Statens kriseberedskab aktiveret efter togulykke" [The government's crisis management activated after train accident]. ritzau. 2 January 2019. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  16. ^ "Ofre er endnu ikke identificeret" [Victims not yet identified] (in Danish). ritzau. 2 January 2019. Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  17. ^ Ingvorsen, Emil Søndergård (2 January 2019). "Kvæstede i Storebælts-ulykke uden for livsfare" [People injured in Great Belt accident not in critical state]. DR (in Danish). Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  18. ^ Hansen, Christian (4 January 2019). "Omkomne fra togulykken er nu identificeret" [The people killed in train accident is now identified]. B.T. (in Danish). Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  19. ^ Norup, Mark Lindved (2 January 2019). "Politiet lukkede Storebæltsbroen: Fokuser på vejen og ikke ulykken" [Police closed the Great Belt Bridge: Focus on the road and not the accident]. DR (in Danish). Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  20. ^ Andreasen, Kasper B. (3 January 2019). "De første tog er nu kørt over Storebælt efter ulykke" [The first train have now crossed the Great Belt after accident]. TV 2 (in Danish). Retrieved 3 January 2019.
  21. ^ "Togene kører som normalt over Storebælt efter dødsulykke" [Trains runs as normal across the Great Belt after deadly accident]. Politiken (in Danish). ritzau. 2 January 2019. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  22. ^ Ritzau (3 January 2019). "Havarikommissionens togdetektiv er på sagen" [The Accident Investigation Board Denmark's train detective is on the case]. Berlingske. Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  23. ^ "Afklaring af årsag til dødelig togulykke kan tage op til et år" [Clarification on the cause of deadly train accident can take up to a year]. Berlingske. 3 January 2019. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  24. ^ Moki, Morten Kiilerich (2 January 2019). "Banedanmark efter togkatastrofe: Blæsten var ikke oppe i det røde felt" [Banedanmark after train disaster: The wind were not in the danger zone]. Horsens Folkeblad (in Danish). Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  25. ^ "Vindmålinger fra Storebælt 2.1.2019" [Wind measurements from the Great Belt 2.1.2019]. Banedanmark (in Danish). 8 January 2019. Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  26. ^ a b Herschend, Sofie Synnøve (4 January 2019). "Ekspert i vind: Stormen kan ikke alene være skyld i togulykken" [Expert in wind: The storm can not alone be the cause of the train accident]. TV2 News (in Danish). Retrieved 4 January 2019.
  27. ^ a b "Restriktioner for tog ved vind på Storebælt" [Restrictions for trains during wind on the Great Belt]. Sund & Bælt (in Danish). 2 January 2019. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  28. ^ Møller, Peter (2 January 2019). "Forulykket godstog måtte godt køre over bro i blæsevejr med normal hastighed" [Wrecked freight train were allowed to cross bridge in windy weather at normal speed]. TV 2 (in Danish). Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  29. ^ Christoffersen, Jonas Stenbæk (2 January 2019). "Banedanmark om togulykken: »Vi har fulgt de retningslinjer, som man har fulgt igennem mange år«" [Banedanmark on the train accident: "We have followed the rules, that we have had for many years"]. Berlingske. Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  30. ^ Thomsen, Peter (6 January 2019). "Var det kun en metaltap, der holdt vognen fast? »Ja, det kan man godt sige«" [Was it only a metal pin that held the trailer in place? "Yes, you can say that"]. Berlingske (in Danish). Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  31. ^ Maach, Maja Lærke (3 January 2019). "DB Cargo har stoppet kørslen med øltog efter dødsulykke på Storebælt" [DB Cargo have stopped all beer-trains after deadly accident on the Great Belt]. DR (in Danish). Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  32. ^ Djursing, Thomas (4 January 2019). "Tidligere chef-operatør: Vi havde en lignende ulykke med godstog" [Former chief-operator: We had a similar accident with a freight train]. Ingeniøren (in Danish). Retrieved 5 January 2019.
  33. ^ a b Nielsen, Morten (9 January 2019). "Utilfredse ordførere: Danske myndigheder blev ikke informeret om tysk togulykke" [Dissatisfied political spokespersons: Danish authorities were not informed on German train accident]. TV 2 (in Danish). Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  34. ^ Nielsen, Morten (10 January 2019). "Myndighederne fik ikke besked om tysk togulykke - nu kræver politikere handling fra ministeren" [The authorities were not informed about the German train accident - politicians require action from the minister]. TV 2 (in Danish). Retrieved 18 January 2019.
  35. ^ "ADVARSEL: Trafik-, Bygge- og Boligstyrelsen udsteder hermed advarsel på jernbaneområdet" [WARNING: The Transport, Construction and Housing Authority hereby issue a warning in the railway domain]. (in Danish). Trafikstyrelsen. 5 January 2019. Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  36. ^ Sebastian Myrup Hansen (7 January 2019). "Trafikstyrelsen advarer mod brug af særlige vogne efter togulykke, hvor otte mistede livet" [The Danish Transport Authority warns against the use of special wagons after train accident, where eight lost their lives]. (in Danish). TV 2 (Denmark). Retrieved 7 January 2019.
  37. ^ JNS urgent procedure ‘Great Belt Bridge accident 2nd Jan. 2019’. May 7, 2019.
  38. ^ Herschend, Sofie Synnøve (8 January 2019). "Test af togvogne hos DB Cargo afslører "et forholdsmæssigt for stort antal fejl"" [Test of train wagons at DB Cargo reveals "a proportionally too big number of errors"]. TV 2 (in Danish). Retrieved 8 January 2018.
  39. ^ Hagemeister, Marie Louise; Runge, Morten (9 January 2019). "Togulykken: Lokoføreren på godstoget opdagede ikke ulykken, før toget holdt stille" [Train accident: Train driver on the freight train did not noticed the accident, before the train came to a halt]. DR (in Danish). Retrieved 9 January 2019.
  40. ^ Herschend, Sofie Synnøve (8 January 2019). "Trafikstyrelsen skærper regler efter ulykke på Storebæltsbroen" [The Danish Transport Authority tightens rules after accident on the Great Belt Bridge]. TV 2 (in Danish). Retrieved 8 January 2019.
  41. ^ "Forbud mod sættevogne og nye vilkår for godstog på Storebæltsbroen" [Ban on semi-trailers and new terms for freight trains on the Great Belt Bridge]. Trafik-, Bygge- og Boligstyrelsen. 8 January 2019. Retrieved 8 January 2019.