Response to the news reports presented by Czech TV in the programmes Udalosti v regionech (Events in regions) and Udalosti (Events)

03.05.2011

Prague, 03/05/2011 – In the last few weeks, more and more biased news reports were presented by Czech TV which referred to the Railway Infrastructure Administration, state organization in different ways.

On 2.5.2011, Czech TV´s programmes Udalosti v regionech (18:00) and Udalosti (19:00) presented a news report by Lea Sudovcova and Jitka Szaszlova about an accident on the line in Prague Vysocany. This whole news report was constructed in such a way to give the impression that the Railway Infrastructure Administration bears the responsibility for this event because on this spot the line was secured with obsolete signalling installation. The truth is, however, that an actual service staff worker (provided by Czech Railways) is to blame for this accident.

This situation in Vysocany on Sunday afternoon was preceded by cable theft which disabled the standard switch control in that particular section. Such a situation calls for a strict procedure ordering that signalmen report the switch setting to the train dispatcher who only then issues a written order to the engine driver allowing him to depart. As the signalman, however, delivered bad information to the dispatcher, he naturally let the train depart despite the fact that this track was taken by another train set coming from the opposite direction. „The news report is trying to give the impression that the signalling installation was not functional and all in all insufficient. This is by no means true. This installation fully complies with state regulations and is in line with all standards and principles,“ commented Pavel Habarta. It is all the more surprising because SZDC provided Czech TV with all the information requested by the reporters.

The reporters in the news report also claim: „The train collision was prevented by a dispatcher who took notice of two trains on a single track…“, which is not correct either. The dispatcher took notice of the motion of two train sets on the single track because he was delivered this information by the signalling system which alerts responsible staff in those cases. Since the area is secured by a number of other features, it was possible to stop the trains long-distance in time and thus to avoid the collision.

This exact description and explanation were presented to those Czech TV reporters by SZDC´s experts as well and yet was the news report itself untrue.

The truth is that the principle of the device securing the track near Vysocany is relatively old and has been in use for a very long time. Nevertheless, that does not go against the fact that this system is reliable and even though it is not human error-resistant like some other more advanced devices, its  different nature compared to many recently manufactured systems is not principal. The TV report, however, quoted a statement based on undisclosed and non-specified sources that allegedly told the reporters that this device: „could no longer be relied on as the key responsibility is left to the attending staff“.

Railway transport safety - and that also applies to the section in Vysocany - is far less dependent on human factor then for instance road transport; however, it is not possible to fully eliminate potential human error. If a similar error, which was caused by the signalman in Vysocany, was made by a long-distance bus driver, it would result in a head-on collision with another vehicle. The line in Vysocany is, however, equipped with signalling installation, which - despite the fact that it is a relatively old system - managed to effectively prevent the collision with the correct attendance.

The reporters stressed several times that the Czech Railway employee who made the fundamental error and who allowed the trains to depart against each other on the single track „was an inexperienced signalman who panicked“. SZDC strictly denies any claims as to whether somebody is experienced or inexperienced for there is only one rule in terms of responsibility – whether the relevant person authorized to perform signaller´s tasks at that time and on that location had adequate qualification for this job. If he did not and yet was he sent to perform such tasks he was not qualified for, then his superior shall be held responsible. If he had the relevant qualification, there can be no excuse for such misconduct.

The Railway Infrastructure Administration, state organization is alarmed by the number of various accidents occurring on rail in the last few days. „The frequency of accidents caused by human error or as in the case of the car derailment near Stribro caused by a train defect has a rising tendency. This represents great risk for the whole railway transport and its trustworthiness from the side of passengers. Even though SZDC does not play any role in most of these events, we are taking some actions to prevent such trouble, “ said Ing. Pavel Habarta MBA, Executive Director.


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