Infrabel trains emergency workers on hazardous goods by rail

Belgian rail infrastructure manager Infrabel and national freight operator Lineas are leading a multi-agency initiative to provide training to emergency services personnel on the transport of hazardous goods by rail. The practical module has been developed by a group also comprising the Directorate General of Civil Security of the Federal Public Service Interior, international chemicals specialist BASF, rail freight wagon leasing company VTG Rail Europe, and the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control (FANC),

Infrabel says that while rail is one of the safest ways to transport hazardous materials, it is an option that is still vastly underused, with only five per cent of dangerous materials such as chemicals currently moved by rail. Accidents involving trains carrying dangerous goods remain rare, but for emergency services personnel attending such incidents there are many factors which make it a potentially dangerous situation.

Operational issues

Issues to consider include how quickly emergency workers can establish what hazardous materials are on board a train, how well protected are tank wagons against chemical leakage, and the dangers of high voltage overheads even after a fire has been extinguished. These, says Infrabel, are highly practical and vital operational issues facing emergency personnel when they intervene.

Infrabel adds that while it is fortunate that emergency services are not required very often at accidents involving dangerous goods, it is absolutely essential that they are able to share knowledge with each other, and thus be in a position to better assess and control any situation.

‘concrete and practical’

The new ‘concrete and practical’ training has been developed to build on the theory-only sessions which have been done in recent years. It is also recognised by the country’s Research Centre for Civil Security as a vital part of ‘continuing education’.

Some workshops have already been held and more are planned for the future. Infrabel also has a dedicated website accessible only by the emergency services, which provides specific information about the logistics of interventions in such track-side scenarios.

Author: Simon Weedy

Simon is a journalist for - a dedicated online platform for all the news about the rail freight sector

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