'Distracted' Swiss train drivers run red signals in record numbers

The Local
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'Distracted' Swiss train drivers run red signals in record numbers
Two people were seriously injured when two trains collided in Rafz in 2015 after one driver failed to stop at a red signal. Photo: Kabelleger / David Gubler

Swiss train drivers failed to obey red stop signals a record number of times last year, with unions saying increased work pressure is responsible.


The number of incidents of trains running red stop signals has risen from 224 back in 2010 when records started to 363 in 2018, according to figures from the Swiss transport ministry.

A total of 108 people have been injured during that period as a result of drivers missing signals – 15 of them seriously. And in 2013 a train driver was killed when his train collided with another train.

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In addition, 56 million Swiss francs (€51.5 million) worth of damage has been caused because of this problem, according to Swiss weekly SonntagsZeitung.

In most incidents, driver error was to blame, official data shows.

SonntagsZeitung said drivers were often distracted because, alongside their driving duties, they needed to be in regular contact with network controllers.

The president of the Swiss Train Drivers Union, Huber Giger, said drivers were now under more pressure.

“There are more signals, speeds are higher and accelerations more rapid,” he said.

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The train drivers' union magazine also notes there are fewer work breaks, while a shortage of personnel means drivers are working extra shifts, which affects concentration levels.

With the SBB saying young drivers are often involved in such incidents, the union wants this group given extra training, especially when it comes to shunting.

The SBB told SonntagsZeitung it offers refresher courses – and that drivers can also request that a trainer accompany them at any time. It also says there has been a drop in the number of incidents of drivers missing red lights this year.


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