Denmark concludes: ‘Safety of pocketwagon not guaranteed’
The safety of the use of pocketwagons cannot be guaranteed, although they are permitted in the transport by rail. This was the conclusion of the Accident Investigation Board of the Danish Transport Authority (DTA), in response to the deadly train accident on the Great Belt Bridge in Denmark last week.
DB Cargo may have loaded the freight train with empty beer boxes from Carlsberg according to all the rules. However, the freight wagon may have caused the tragic train accident, the authority said to Fyens.dk, a Danish news outlet.
On Wednesday 2 January, a passenger train was hit by parts of the trailers on a pocketwagon operated by DB Cargo. The freight train passed in opposite direction on the higher section of the bridge. Eight people died in the accident.
The DTA warns in particular about the use of the Sdggmrs type of pocketwagon. “Even when the carriages are loaded according to current regulations and the loading pin is in the hole as it should be, there is a security risk. We can and must respond immediately”, the body said.
The board encourages freight operators to carry out additional checks by securing the locking mechanism when semi-trailers are mounted on a freight wagon. DB Cargo announced last week to halt all operations of its ‘beer train’ in Denmark, until it has fully grasped what went wrong in the deadly accident.
“When we feel that with a very high degree of security we can start driving the train, then we do it, and we do not do it before. We would rather go 25 extra rounds to ensure safety than sending the trains too early back on the rails”, the company’s communications director Jan Wildau said in an interview with the Danish TV 2.
The Accident Investigation Board currently does not know whether the dangerous vehicle type has been wholly or partly guilty of the train accident. It is currently assessing the cause of the accident further. Similarly, DB Cargo is in the process of reviewing all the company’s procedures, materials and a variety of other conditions.
Years of mileage
DB Cargo carries beer boxes over the Great Belt Bridge thirty times per week. There has never been an indication that the freight train is not safe. “They have been driving for many years. At the moment, there is nothing that tells us that they are not in order, but we want to be absolutely sure”, Wilday said.
Pocket wagons are designed for the transport of semi-trailers, but are usually loaded either with ISO containers or swap bodies as required, avoiding empty running. They are a common means of transport in Europe.
Great Belt Bridge
The accident was the most serious rail accident in Denmark since 1988. Another sixteen people were injured. The passenger train was on the way to Copenhagen. The freight train was headed towards Funen.
The bridge is a 18-kilometre long passage connecting the islands Funen and Seeland. One part of the bridge is lower than the other part. Every day about 21,000 passengers travel by train over the 18-kilometer-long Great Belt Bridge between the islands of Zealand and Funen.