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Holistic Overview of Freight Train Derailments in Europe: Causal and Impact Analysis

Lookup NU author(s): Gordana Vasic, Dr Cristian Ulianov


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The paper provides an overview of recent mainline freight train derailments in Europe, with a major focus on causes and impact. It also analyses and makes recommendations on the methodology for accident reporting and impact analysis. The study includes the most relevant outcomes of the EU FP7 project D-RAIL, which aims to make significant improvements in the detection and prevention of derailments and mitigation of their subsequent effects. The European Railway Agency (ERA) has estimated that open line freight train derailments cost the EU27 Member States more than 200 million Euros per year. The methodology included gathering and analysis of information on derailments from European countries, USA and Russia. All significant information, including number of derailments, derailment reports, causes and impacts, was considered and collected. Derailment causes have been categorised and ranked according to the proportion of derailments occurring within each category. The objective was to identify the major causes of derailment as a starting point for the detailed analysis. This review covered the six-year period 2005-2010 and has shown that the number of derailments occurring each year is, in general, declining. It was found that causes related to infrastructure and rolling stock are responsible for most of the derailments on open line and in stations, while operations are the dominant cause in shunting yards. Although regulations on reporting of accidents are now in force in the EU, the variability of reporting (in terms of style, accuracy, level of details, etc.) is significant across the Member States. Detailed information on derailments, their causes and costs is often available only from private databases in each country. Costs are difficult to estimate since different financial procedures are implemented in different countries, and the impact of derailments is often over several years. Based on this analysis, the paper makes recommendations and provides solutions for improved safety reporting for an integrated Europe, and potentially for implementation worldwide. A more unified reporting system will give a more confident statistical analysis that will aid identification of derailment causes and a clearer understanding of the resulting direct and indirect costs. This will allow future research to target the causes and costs of derailment more effectively, and help make freight railway transport safer, more reliable and attractive for end users.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Vasić G, Ulianov C, Kozyr G, Robinson M

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 10th World Congress on Railway Research, WCRR 2013

Year of Conference: 2013

Pages: 7

Publisher: Informa Australia Pty Ltd