ONE person has been confirmed dead and 30 injured following an accident close to Voorschoten on the four-track Leiden - The Hague main line in the Netherlands on April 4.
The incident occurred at around 03.30 and reports indicate that a passing DB Cargo freight train, loaded with lime and heading for the Tata Steel plant at Beverwijk, collided with a rail-mounted crane operated by infrastructure maintenance company BAM.
The freight train’s class 189 locomotive, which was travelling from Kijfhoek freight yard, was damaged badly at the front upon colliding with the crane, debris from which was displaced onto the neighbouring tracks. Part of the load was also displaced from the wagons of the freight train.
A few moments later a VIRM four-car double-deck EMU, operated in the opposite direction by Netherlands Railways (NS) as a Utrecht - Amsterdam - Schiphol Airport - The Hague - Rotterdam service, collided with parts of the damaged crane, causing a derailment. Two of the four coaches ended up in the field next to the railway line. A fire that broke out in one of the coaches was quickly extinguished.
According to NS there were about 50 passengers onboard at the time of the accident. One track worker was killed, and 30 passengers were injured, of which 19 were taken to hospital, including the driver of the NS train. The DB Cargo driver was also taken to hospital after reportedly suffering from broken bones.
In a statement, infrastructure manager ProRail said that maintenance work was taking place at the site of the accident with two of the four tracks out of service. The accident occurred close to the platforms at Voorschoten station, where there is a level crossing enabling road-rail vehicles to gain access to the track for maintenance work.
In an update issued on the afternoon of April 4, ProRail said that work to clean up the lime from the freight train was underway and that it would begin to salvage the trains as soon as the police, the Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate and the Public Prosecution Service have released the site of the accident.
ProRail reports that in addition to extensive damage to the track, the platform at Voorschoten station also needs to be repaired. It adds that a bridge structure must be constructed in order for its salvage operator to clear a ditch and access the four-car passenger train. This work will start on April 5. ProRail says an investigation is underway into whether the freight train can be removed independently. It expects that salvage of the train parts will take several days with much of this work only possible during the day. In the meantime, buses are replacing trains between The Hague Laan van NOI and Leiden Central.
Both the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) and Dutch Railway Safety Authority (ILT) have launched an investigation into the accident. Police and prosecutors are also investigating.
“This is a black day for the Dutch railways,” says Mr John Voppen, ProRail CEO. “My thoughts go out to everyone involved. We will of course investigate how this could have happened.”