Fatal train accidents on Britain’s and Europe’s main line railways

Fatal train accidents on Britain’s and Europe’s main line railways

Professor Andrew Evans has updated his papers on fatal train accidents in Britain and Europe.

‘Fatal Accidents to Britain’s mainline railways’ updates the author’s previous statistical analyses of fatal train accidents on running lines on the national railway system of Great Britain to the end of 2015, based on fatal accident data over the 47-year period 1967 to 2015.

There were no fatal train collisions, derailments or overruns in 2015 for the eighth consecutive calendar year. That continuing good performance contributes to a further reduction in the estimated mean frequency of such accidents from 0.31 per year in 2013 to 0.26 in 2015. The estimated mean number of fatalities per year in such accidents fell from 1.22 in 2013 to 1.01 in 2015. There were two accidental fatal collisions between trains and road motor vehicles in 2014, causing two road vehicle fatalities, and none in 2015. That performance leads to an estimated frequency of 2.03 such accidents per year in 2015, compared with 2.23 in 2013, with 2.83 fatalities per year in 2015 compared with 3.12 in 2013. The long-term rate of reduction in the accident rate per train-kilometre is estimated to be 7.1% per year for train collisions, derailments and overruns, and 3.5% per year for collisions between trains and road motor vehicles. The paper examines the evolution of the estimates since 2001, and makes comparisons with results of the Safety Risk Model (SRM) of the Rail Safety and Standards Board. Both sources estimate long term reductions in mean fatalities per year in train collisions, derailments and overruns, but the SRM has consistently estimated more fatalities per year than this paper.

The report is accessible here.

Also available is Professor Evans’ paper “Fatal train accident on Europe’s main line railways: 1980-2015”. The paper published June 2016 is one of an annual series starting with 1980 to 2009. The data cover the 28 countries of the European Union as in 2015, together with Norway and Switzerland.

The estimated overall trend in the number of fatal train collisions and derailments per train-kilometre is –5.5% per year from 1990 to 2015, with a 95% confidence interval of –7.2% to -3.8%. The estimated accident rate in 2015 is 1.10 fatal collisions or derailments per billion train-kilometres, giving an estimated mean number of fatal accidents in Europe in 2015 of 4.8. These results are similar to those in the previous paper, because the number of fatal accidents in 2015 was 4, and thus fairly close to the trend. However, the number of fatalities in 2015 was well below its mean, at 5. This was the same as that in 2014, but both figures contrast with the 91 fatalities in 2013, which was far above its mean because of the exceptional severity of the passenger train derailment near Santiago de Compostela in Spain with 79 fatalities. The effect of these results was to raise the estimated overall number of fatalities per fatal accident by 7% from 4.04 in 1990-2012 to 4.31 in 1990-2013, and to lower it again to 4.20 in 1990-2015. The estimated mean fatalities per year rose by 6% from 22.3 in 2012 to 23.7 in 2013, and then fell again by 14% to 20.4 in 2015. There are statistically significant differences in the fatal train accident rates and trends between the different European countries, although the estimates of the rates and trends for many individual countries have wide confidence limits. The distribution of broad causes of accidents appears to have remained unchanged over the long term, so that safety improvements appear to have been across the board, and not focused on any specific cause. The most frequent cause of fatal train collisions and derailments is signals passed at danger. In contrast to fatal train collisions and derailments, the rate per train-kilometre of severe accidents at level crossings fell only slowly and not statistically significantly in 1990-2015. 

The report is accessible here.

 

 

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