Serious Accident in Bavaria

Discussion in 'International Transport' started by Masboroughlad, 9 Feb 2016.

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  1. EAD

    EAD Member

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    Evening all,

    As promised I had followed proceedings in Traunstein on day 1 in the local Bavarian media. Not sure how many on here read German, but I found the local state media (Bayerische Rundfunk) had also tweeted live from the court room and that can be read here http://www.br.de/nachrichten/bad-aibling-zugunglueck-140.html. Süddeutsche Zeitung (a national daily based in Munich) also has some good articles e.g. http://www.sueddeutsche.de/bayern/prozess-fahrdienstleiter-von-bad-aibling-spielte-bei-der-arbeit-oft-auf-dem-handy-trotz-verbot-1.3243156

    First thing to say is the poor signalman is clearly deeply affected by this and he issued an apology at the opening of proceedings to the families/friends of those who lost their lives/were injured. He also noted he has to suffer the burden of his actions every day. I think as humans we can all appreciate how horrid that is no matter if he is convicted or not.

    He is facing charges of involuntary manslaughter and involuntary bodily harm.

    A few interesting points:

    1) He has admitted to playing on his phone at the time and also to the fact he hit the wrong emergency button to warn of the impending crash. As is his right, I understand he is leaving it to the prosecution to demonstrate its case and that he did not act with the appropriate duty of care and therefore is guilty of the charges.

    2) The prosecution has outlined its case. It alleges that he was playing the game Dungeon Hunter 5 on his phone at the relevant time (also that records show he was regularly playing this on phone while on shift contrary to the rules and regs). According to the prosecution he confused the timetable lines as he was distracted, having already set the route for the train from Rosenheim to leave Kolbermoor. The train from Holzkirchen to Rosenheim was in the platform at Bad Aibling and he then tried to set the route, the interlocking clearly not allowing it.

    Unfortunately, rather than double checking why which would have meant he saw the other train in block, he seems to have directly issued Befehl A via the Zs1 signal for the train to leave towards Holzkirchen. He should under the rules have checked and proved the route was secure first [not covered in the media but again he would quickly have seen the block was occupied].

    He also cleared the red block signal near the halt (as the other train was in the section between there and Kolbermoor) using Zs1 for the train to pass the signal at danger.

    He realised his mistake 42 seconds before the crash, but tragically sent an emergency broadcast for trains to stop to neighbouring signal boxes twice instead of the drivers as he pressed the wrong button.

    The collision took place in a curve, with one train at 51 Km/h and the other at 78 Km/h.

    3) He will by mutual agreement not be going back to his job and if convicted could face up to 5 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.

    The case continues and is the hearing is scheduled for 7 days with judgement expected on 5 December.
     
  2. Tim R-T-C

    Tim R-T-C Established Member

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    Thanks, very detailed and interesting.

    Are there any discussions of prosecutions of the managers/company for not stopping this man (and possibly others) from being distracted during their duties.
     
  3. Crossover

    Crossover Established Member

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    Thanks for the day 1 summary EAD - quite a shocking set of events that occurred that day
     
  4. EAD

    EAD Member

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    You are welcome. I saw one of the lawyers for the victims note he is disappointed no charges have been brought against DB. There will expert evidence including into how distracting such a game could be including I suspect as to whether it had become addictive.

    In terms of direct supervision he worked in the local boxes which meant he was on his own, which can't have helped in terms of picking the phone use up. While DB are not facing charges (given the systems worked correctly but were overridden by the signalman), there is the formal rail investigation and I expect recommendations re practices and systems and criticism of DB in that.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    You are welcome - agreed! As so often with such accidents it takes a number of things to come together that would not do so normally to achieve such a horrendous outcome.
     
  5. w0033944

    w0033944 Member

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    What an awful and tragic set of circumstances.
     
  6. endecotp

    endecotp Member

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    The case against DB would surely be that the system was unsafe because it allowed the signalman to override it so easily.
     
  7. EAD

    EAD Member

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    Under what law (keeping in mind this is also German law)? DB will be taken to task as part of the statutory investigation into the crash and no doubt if needed changes will be mandated.

    We have discussed a fair but since February the way interlocking works and how the Zs1 signals are to be used (as a last resort where on a single line) - the framework in the signalling rules is very clear as to the procedures to be followed re interlock and route proving/block occupation status before taking such a step.

    I agree there may well be a change made as a result on single lines - there is already debate on this in the German press. It is also possible another case could be brought against DB depending on what emerges (civil for damages for example).

    I can see the temptation to think it should be brought in by state prosecutor alongside the defendant, but in this case given the admissions of the signalman I can see why the current case has been structured as it is. It would also require evidence that DB was culpable of recklessness contrary to its statutory duty which is directly attributable in the chain of causation to the crash - as it stands DB's systems were functioning in perfect accordance with the law.

    Don't get me wrong, the incident raises questions, but I am confident these will be dealt with in due course.
     
  8. duesselmartin

    duesselmartin Member

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    In what way is the state body EBA Eisenbahnbundesamt responsible for what systems are in place and how they should be used?
     
  9. EAD

    EAD Member

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    Hello all,

    A quick update as today was the second day of the trial. More information (in German) can be found here http://www.br.de/nachrichten/oberbayern/inhalt/bad-aibling-zugunglueck-prozessfortgang-100.html

    It seems today focused on hearing from witnesses from DB on topics such as how emergency calls (i.e. traffic stop calls) are given, how routes/signals/points are set, etc.

    In the coming days a court appointed expert will address whether the accident could have been prevented on the basis of different technology as this is a consideration as to whether the accused is guilty of acting negligently. In addition the impact of the computer game will be considered in weighing up negligence: a computer expert, the game producer and psychologist will be called as witnesses in this regard.

    Other points covered were that the emergency call given (the wrong one to neighbouring boxes) worked without fault on the day. An EBA investigator also confirmed the signalling equipment was working correctly on the day. It appears they are also being asked by the court to consider if DB could improve the set up in such signal boxes (see above re negligence).

    The accused was according to bosses a good employee, though the defence did raise the question as to whether there should be an easier system for giving emergency calls (as he went for the wrong one in the heat of the moment).
     
  10. Gerald Fiennes

    Gerald Fiennes Member

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    As well as the Zs1 signal operating procedures, in the UK we would now also look at DB's overall safety system eg. training, competence and assessment of whether staff are fulfilling their responsibilities professional insofar as these factors might be part of the overall cause of the accident. And, if any evidence had existed of the signaller playing computer games whilst on duty in the past, there would also be the question of what disciplinary measures that DB took over it. Loss of concentration in this way is obviously extremely serious and we would probably be looking at processes leading to dismissals if such a situation was detected by management here. But I do find the ability to override the signals so easily astonishing!
     
  11. jswagger

    jswagger Member

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    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-38206468
     
    Last edited by a moderator: 5 Jan 2017
  12. 45669

    45669 Member

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    When I was a volunteer signalman on a well known heritage railway, I used to take a (railway) book or magazine to read during quiet spells between trains. I am also aware of signalman on the 'big railway' reading books, doing crosswords, tending the vegetable plot, etc. between trains, so is playing games on a mobile phone the modern equivalent of this?
     
  13. EAD

    EAD Member

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    Hello again everyone - afraid work has kept me from updates on the last couple of days of the trial.

    As has been linked to, the court has issued its decision and that is a 3.5 year sentence. The state prosecutor had asked for 4 years, so it is pretty much in line with that and the maximum tariff is 5 years. The court took into account his acceptance (including immediately after the events) that he was a fault. Further details (in German) here http://www.br.de/nachrichten/badaibling-prozess-urteil-100.html

    In terms of the actual decision - in summary each individual mistake he made was avoidable and could have been corrected if he acted with the necessary duty of care. He was so distracted by the game playing (as explained by the expert witnesses) that he could not fulfil his duties. Indeed he was on the game for an hour contrary to the ban on mobile phone use and not properly exercising his duties as a qualified individual.

    The interesting point which touches on some of the comments up thread is that DB is now facing civil claims from the victims and that will of course go to its (civil) duties as to the signalling – there has been much discussion around the criminal case about a 1984 recommendation to DB to add additional warnings on single line sections in signal boxes, however this was to be implemented within financial means and the signal box in question was not so altered.
     
  14. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    He of course has a life sentence of knowing that his negligence killed people totally avoidably.

    I still retain the view that Zs1 is a dangerous concept as-is, though.
     
  15. Crossover

    Crossover Established Member

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    From what I have read on the threads here, I agree. I don't understand how a solution can be supposedly failsafe when you can take one cursory look at it, believe it has failed and seemingly simply override it at the press of another button at will
     
  16. Bletchleyite

    Bletchleyite Veteran Member

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    Indeed. At the very least it should require the direct intervention of another individual, even if that causes delays while they get in a car and drive there to insert their override key. But even then it's risky - you get into keys being passed around etc...
     
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