“More than ever, third parties are responsible for most accidents,” the UIC says. “People take life-threatening risks due to negligence, distraction, recklessness, carelessness, laziness or a sense of urgency. This is a major issue for the rail network; third parties accounted for 95% of the 900 fatalities recorded in 2016. It is imperative that public authorities play their part in promoting education and raising awareness of risk, and continue their efforts to protect the railways from uncivil behaviour by third parties, just as they have done for the road transport sector for many years.”

However, safety on Europe’s railways continues to improve. “Accidents and numbers of victims have been reduced by a third in the decade 2007-2016 thanks to the efforts of the rail community to improve safety in the sector,” the UIC says. The number collisions and derailments in 2016 was at its lowest level since 2010, with just 70 such accidents, compared with 138 in 2010.

While, collisions and derailments only represent 4% of significant accidents, two train collisions in Belgium and Germany and a derailment in Spain resulted in 12 passenger deaths, which is more than half of the number of passenger deaths recorded in 2016.

The number of significant accidents has fallen by 29% from 2288 in 2007 to 1630 in 2016. The UIC classifies an accident as significant if it involves at least one rail vehicle in motion, resulting in at least one killed or seriously-injured person, or significant damage to rolling stock or fixed installations, or extensive traffic disruption, but excludes accidents in workshops, depots or warehouses.

The UIC's Global Safety Index (GSI), in which each accident is weighted according to cause, type, frequency and victim category, has shown a continuous decline from 9.99 in 2011 to 7.54 in 2016.

Click here to read the full annual report for 2017.