Ostrava tram crash: three dead, forty injured

Three people died and nearly forty were injured on Friday in Ostrava, North Moravia, when two trams crashed in a gruesome head-on collision. The causes of the crash are under investigation, but there’s no question the accident has raised doubts whether current safety measures on Czechs rails are sufficient.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK One of the worst tramway accidents in Czech history occurred early evening on Friday on the outskirts of the North Moravian city of Ostrava when two trams on a single track collided head-on, killing three including a four-year-old child. The spokesman for the Ostrava Transportation Company Miroslav Albrecht describes what happened.

“The tragic accident happened on April 11, just before six pm when two tramway cars on the number five line in Ostrava crashed head-on. The probable cause of the collision was human failure: when one of the tram drivers failed to wait for the track to be clear and started out in the direction of the approaching tram. The head-on collision resulted in many dozens of injured passengers; unfortunately, three people died in the accident as well.”

While urban tramway transport is common in the Czech Republic, the majority of the country’s tram tracks are dual with no risk of head-on collision. Also, in the case of the single track in Ostrava, it was the drivers’ responsibility to check that the track is clear before moving ahead. The Ostrava Transportation Company claims such provision complies with all Czech transportation laws and regulations. Michal Miklenda is an inspector at the Czech Railway Safety Inspection, a body responsible for investigations of rail accidents.

“We are investigating the causes and circumstances of the accident and therefore cannot now guarantee that everything went according to Czech law and other rules. But these provisions are allowed by Czech laws and they are quite usual, speaking for example of some regional railway lines. But the other single tracks used by tramways in both directions are equipped with technical interlocking devices.”

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK Even if the investigation shows that the safety measures employed at the critical single track were sufficient under Czech legislation, and the accident was caused by the erring tram driver, the Ostrava Transportation Company says it will enhance safety and install a modern interlocking system before the line is reopened after the accident. Is the Czech Railway Safety Inspection going to push for a change in the law so that such systems are compulsory on all tramway tracks in the country?

“This is one of the important questions we are going to answer after we conclude our investigation. We may then issue some safety recommendations which could then possibly be transformed into preventive measures in order to prevent such accidents in the future.”

The inspection will conclude the investigation of the accident within six months. Meanwhile, if the 24-year-old driver is implicated for criminal negligence, he may face up to ten years in prison.