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.

Professor Evans commented to PACTS on the UK’s performance in 2016: “The European paper includes estimates of the fatal train collision or derailment rates per billion train-kilometres in 2016 for each European country. While these are interesting, it must be noted that they are very uncertain because of the (happily) small number of accidents on which they are based. However, based on the central estimates, the UK was third best in 2016, being pipped by Ireland and Sweden. Ireland has suffered no fatal train accident since 1991, which gives it a very low estimated current accident rate, but also great uncertainty.”

“Fatal train accidents on Britain’s main line railways: end of 2016 analysis” updates the author’s previous statistical analyses of fatal train accidents on running lines of the national railway system of Great Britain to the end of 2016, based on fatal accident data over the 50-year period 1967 to 2016.There were no fatal train collisions, derailments or overruns in 2016 for the ninth consecutive calendar year. That continuing good performance contributes to a further reduction in the estimated mean frequency of such accidents from 0.26 per year in 2015 to 0.22 in 2016. The estimated mean number of fatalities per year in such accidents fell from 1.01 in 2015 to 0.89 in 2016. There were no accidental fatal collisions between trains and road motor vehicles in 2016 for the second calendar year in succession. That leads to an estimated frequency of 1.80 such accidents per year in 2016, compared with 2.03 in 2015, with 2.51 fatalities per year in 2016 compared with 2.83 in 2015. The long-term rate of reduction in the accident rate per train-kilometre is estimated to be 7.2% per year for train collisions, derailments and overruns, and 3.6% per year for collisions between trains and road motor vehicles. The paper examines the evolution of these 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 available in full here

Also available is Professor Evans’ paper “Fatal train accidents on Europe’s railways: 1980-2016”. The paper is one of an annual series starting with 1980 to 2009.

This paper presents an analysis of fatal train accident rates and trends on Europe’s main line railways from 1980 to 2016. The paper is one of an annual series starting with 1980 to 2009. The data cover the 28 countries of the European Union as in 2016, together with Norway and Switzerland. The estimated overall trend in the number of fatal train collisions and derailments per train-kilometre is –5.3% per year from 1990 to 2016, with a 95% confidence interval of –7.0% to ‑3.7%. The estimated accident rate in 2016 is 1.07 fatal collisions or derailments per billion train-kilometres, which represents a fall of 73% since 1990. This gives an estimated mean number of fatal accidents in Europe in 2016 of 4.7. The actual number of fatal train collisions and derailments in 2016 was 6, which is fairly close to the trend. The estimated mean number of fatalities in 2016 was 20.4, but the actual number was 51, which is well above its mean. That is because some accidents in 2016 were unusually severe, including accidents with 12 and 23 fatalities. This contrasts with 2015, in which the number of fatalities was 5 from 4 fatal accidents. 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 1990-2016.

The report is available in full here

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