R2015-01 Level Crossing Accident in Kokemäki, Finland, on 6 February 2015
On Friday, 6 February 2015, a passenger train and an articulated hauler collided in Kokemäki. The collision occurred at the unprotected level crossing of a private road and the Kokemäki–Pori railway. The accident happened while workmen were preparing to move a track excavator over the track.
The driver of the articulated hauler was driving over the tracks to transport materials required for moving the excavator, when the passenger train came from his left and collided with the trailer of the articulated hauler. Both the hauler driver and engine driver were seriously injured.
The articulated hauler is a 21-tonne earthmoving machine. The impact split the hauler in two, the tractor being thrown to the left side of the tracks and the trailer to the right side. The front end of the locomotive was badly damaged. The collision caused no damage to the track. The costs of repairs to the train engine and articulated hauler amounted to about EUR 700,000.
The articulated hauler was not carrying a heavy load, which lessened the force of the impact. If the hauler had been carrying a full load, the passenger train might have been derailed, most likely resulting in more serious and numerous injuries to those on board.
The immediate cause of the accident was that the driver of the articulated hauler did not notice the passenger train coming from his left. The factors that contributed to this error in observation were the glare of the low sun from the direction of the oncoming train and the location of the level crossings on a private road where two tracks diverge. An additional factor was that the colour scheme of the front end of the train did not make it stand out from its surroundings. The relatively infrequent traffic on this section of the railway (18 trains a day) and the ongoing preparations to move the excavator also reduced caution. The engine driver noticed the articulated hauler approaching the level crossing, but did not pay any further attention to it, as he assumed that it would stop. He shifted his attention to the next level crossing, which is why it took him longer to notice that the articulated hauler had continued onto the track.
In order to avoid similar accidents and to reduce consequences, the Safety Investigation Authority, Finland issues the following recommendations:
1. The Finnish Transport Agency must draft readily available guidelines for time-intensive, non-trackwork-related use of level crossings or other similar work that poses a risk of a collision.
2. The Road Traffic Act must stipulate that those operating tractors and work machines must wear seatbelts when driving in traffic.
3. Written guidelines for how to react to an imminent collision must be introduced in the training of engine drivers for specific types of train units and locomotives.
In addition, the Safety Investigation Authority, Finland reiterates recommendations issued previously:
S318 The visibility of front ends of locomotives and train units should be improved.
S309 A new strategy should be drawn up to improve level crossing safety, and a concrete plan with funding arrangements should be drafted based on this strategy.