July sees highest number of railway accidents in five years

Photo: archive of Railway Administration

Twenty-eight people died and 55 were injured on Czech railways during the first month of the summer holidays. July saw a total of 135 accidents, incidents or near-collisions, which is an increase by one third on the previous month and the highest number recorded in a single month in at least five years. The number of train accidents on level crossing increased as well.

The first and also the most devastating in a series of accidents happened on July 7, when two passenger trains collided near the town of Pernink in the Karlovy Vary region. Two people died in the collision and more than 20 were injured. The accident was caused by one of the train drivers, who forgot to wait for the other train to pass.

Just three days later, a train travelling from Prague to Žďár nad Sázavou collided with a waiting train in Prague-Běchovice, derailing one of the trains. Firefighters had to evacuate hundreds of people, but no one was injured.

Another head-on collision happened on the same line on July 14, leading to the death of the driver who allegedly caused the accident and leaving four passengers with severe injuries and over three dozen with minor injuries.

Pernink accident,  photo: archive of Fire Department of Karlovy Vary region

These are just some of the 135 incidents recorded in July, the highest figure since 2015, when the Czech Rail Safety Inspection Office started compiling data for individual months. Martin Drápal is the spokesman of the Czech Rail Safety Inspection Office:

“There have been more accidents on level crossings and more collisions with people. However, when we look at the overall numbers for the whole year, they are more or less the same. So far, there have been 140 fatalities, while last year during the same period it was 131.

“Most of these incidents were caused by human error. It is possible that people are less focussed at this time of year. Many of these incidents are still under investigation, so we are still trying to find out exactly why the human factor failed.”

Following the spate of train incidents, Czech Railways announced the company would be increasing inspections of train drivers and introduce stricter safety measures and tighter control.

According to Mr Drápal, one of the priorities is to introduce the ETCS automatic train protection system, which ensures that trains doesn’t exceed the safe speed and distance.

“Railway safety has often been dependent solely on the human factor and we have been calling for a long time for the introduction of another system.

“We want a security system that will operate independently of people, which can assess the situation and bring the train to a halt to prevent a collision from taking place.”

The Czech Republic has one of the densest railway networks, in terms of the overall length of tracks, in the whole of Europe. According to data from April, the automatic protection system has been installed on some 225 kilometres out of a total of 9,000.