Swiss train over speed limit in Norway crash

A Swiss-made high-speed train that crashed during a test run in Norway this week was travelling at almost twice the speed limit at the time of the accident, according to a preliminary report from the Accident Investigation Board Norway (AIBN).

All five people on board were injured, none of them seriously, when the train derailed on a stretch of track between Nykirke and Holmstrand, south of Oslo. Having come off the rails, the train smashed into a telephone mast and a bank of rock.

The train was part of Norwegian rail operator NSB’s new Flirt (Fast Light Innovative Regional Train) fleet, a model made by Swiss firm Stadler. 

The train was travelling at a speed of 135 kilometres per hour when the brakes were applied, AIBN said on Friday.

Trains are restricted to a speed limit of 130 kilometres per hour on a relatively new stretch of track just before the spot where the accident took place, but this drops to 70 km/h at a point where trains switch to older rails on a curve.

The train derailed 50-60 metres after the switchover. Operators are warned of the need to slow down 1,200 metres before the change to older tracks.

The AIBN’s investigation showed that the train travelled 340 metres in the 11 seconds it took from the time the brakes were applied until the train came to a standstill.

“We don’t know why the speed was so high. It could have been an infrastructural problem, a technical error, or human error,” Jeanette Fagerli-Quaino, spokeswoman for NSB, told Norwegian news agency NTB.

The stretch of track where the accident took place is in an area with partially automatic train control. Had the train been in an area with fully automatic control the train would have braked automatically, Fagerli-Quaino said.

Norwegian police said they were aware of the AIBN findings and were also continuing with their own independent investigation.

The new trains had been scheduled to start running on regional and local networks across Norway from February 29th but the start date was postponed indefinitely after Wednesday’s accident. 

NSB has ordered 50 Flirt trains from Stadler at a cost of 4.2 billion kroner ($730 million). The Norwegian operator also has an option to buy a further 100 trains.

Flirt trains can reach a maximum speed of 200 kilometres per hour.

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Rail services to remain disrupted in Switzerland in the coming days

Snow and sub-zero temperatures over the weekend caused havoc on some train lines, mainly in the German-speaking part of Switzerland.

Rail services to remain disrupted in Switzerland in the coming days
Snow has slowed down train traffic in Switzerland. Photo by AFP

Freezing temperatures cut off the power on some lines, disrupting train traffic in several regions.

Internationally, traffic between St. Margrethen in St.Gallen and Munich was interrupted due to heavy snowfall. EuroCity trains between Zurich and Munich were canceled.

Before it resumes normal service, Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) must clear a thick layer of snow from trains and remove fallen trees from tracks, the company said on its website.

The train between Basel and Zurich airport will be canceled until Tuesday evening. 

But SBB says it will resume most of its traffic on the main lines on Monday, though at reduced frequency.

Shorter train formations and longer journeys should also be expected in the next few days.

READ MORE: Swiss railways releases new time table: Here's what changes in 2021

How can you know ahead of time about any last-minute cancellations or delays?

The timetable is also constantly updated on the SBB Mobile App. 

Any delays or last minute cancellations are indicated there in real time.

On Twitter, @RailService and @railinfo_cff provide information on possible disruptions as well.

READ MORE: MAP: Return of night trains across Europe comes a step closer