So was it human error? A technical failure? Or a combination of both? What is known about the deadly train collision in Belgium is that one of the trains was not equipped with an automatic system that stops a train when it goes through a red light.
But that does not explain why the train was not manually stopped in the first place. That is the focus of the investigation.
The Belgian train company SNCB began installing emergency stopping systems on its trains in 2006, aiming to fit out all of them by 2013. So far only a third have been equipped.
Railway workers have been voicing their concerns about the crash, with many complaining about security in general and the long hours they have to work.
One worker said: “The important thing is to stop when the light is red. And if, unfortunately, because we’re human, there is a lapse of attention, the train should stop when the light is red. I think that is being put in place, maybe with a delay, but it is being done.”
The president of the SNCB has been quoted as calling into question the European Commission, and the slow process of harmonising European regulations on automatic braking systems. The commission has rejected the criticism.
Anne Woygnet, a spokeswoman for the SNCB, said:
“There were different security systems, but to achieve compatability it was necessary to make a choice, and Belgium chose the most advanced. So why was there a delay? Because the system had to be approved and, because it’s a very advanced system, that takes time. Of course to be effective, the system has to be installed inside the train and on the ground. It’s installed on the ground, and now being placed on the trains.”
The recent crash has brought back memories of another accident in Belgium in 2001. Eight people died when a train reportedly went through a red light because of a language problem.