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Questions have been raised by the European Commission about the conduct and findings of the Spanish investigation into the high speed derailment at Santiago de Compostela on July 24 2013, which killed 81 people and injured another 150.
Last October, the Commission asked the European Union Agency for Railways to review the work of Spanish accident investigation body CIAF, and in particular its final report. Confirming on July 8 that her department had received ERA’s ‘advice’ document the previous day, Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc insisted that ‘transparency is the key’, and said the Spanish authorities ‘have taken steps in the right direction’.
ERA concluded that the accident had ‘not yet been independently investigated as required by the Railway Safety Directive’. Taking into account ‘the very serious nature of this accident’, the agency considers that a new investigation should be opened ‘that meets the requirements of independence and addresses as a minimum the weaknesses identified’.
ERA felt that the Spanish investigation ‘did not comply with requirements in articles 21.1 and 21.2 of the Railway Safety Directive’ to ensure the independence of CIAF from any infrastructure manager, railway undertaking or other party ‘whose interests could conflict with the tasks entrusted to the investigation body’. In particular, it highlighted the inclusion of ADIF, RENFE and Ineco staff on the investigating team.
In its advice, ERA expressed concern that the investigation had placed sole responsibility for the accident on human error and had therefore failed to investigate other contributing factors adequately. The agency pointed out that national investigation bodies are supposed to ‘establish exactly what, how and why the accident happened’ in order ‘to learn lessons and prevent similar accidents in the future’.
This article first appeared on www.railwaygazette.com
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