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Railways bosses admit mistakes

Weibel can no longer set his watch by the Swiss trains Keystone Archive

The Swiss Federal Railways says it was unprepared to deal with the short circuit, which caused a collapse of the entire network on Wednesday.

Speaking in the Sunday newspapers, the Railways management promised to introduce measures to minimise the chance of such a shutdown repeating itself in future.

Railways CEO, Benedikt Weibel, told the Blick newspaper that the company’s risk management had to be optimised.

Weibel said the Railways would investigate why the short circuit was not contained, but allowed to spread to the entire system.

Last Wednesday, a short circuit affected a power line in central Switzerland, leading to a complete shutdown of the nation’s rail network.

The Railways discovered later that there were no back up lines available due to construction work. This meant that current generated north of the Alps was diverted to the southern canton of Ticino.

This in turn led to an overload of the local grid and the automatic shutdown of power stations during rush hour.

Trains across the country ground to a halt, leaving about 200,000 passengers stranded for about four hours.

Unmanned station

Hans-Jürg Hess, head of the Railways infrastructure division, admitted that the breakdown could have been contained, had a key transformer station in Zurich been manned at the time.

“We will make sure it’s not left vacant again,” he promised in an interview with the SonntagsZeitung.

“I will push through a professional and comprehensive risk analysis of the infrastructure of the entire Railways and implement appropriate measures to minimise risks,” he continued.

Weibel was more philosophical: “It’s an illusion to think there is anything such as complete reliability, even with such a sophisticated system [as our railway network].”

Both men rejected accusations that the network could not handle the increased rail traffic since a new timetable with more frequent connections was introduced at the end of last year.

Lightening strike

A day after the nationwide collapse, a lightening strike caused a shutdown of large parts of the rail network in western Switzerland.

It was followed by a regional power failure due to another lightning strike on Friday.

On Saturday, a contact line of the railway near Zurich caught fire, causing another delay of some trains on the north-south axis.

Weibel quoted Murphy Law’s to describe the bad luck of the Railways last week: “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong,” he concluded.

swissinfo with agencies

On Wednesday evening, a short circuit in central Switzerland caused an unprecedented shutdown of the entire network of the Swiss Federal Railways.

On Thursday and Friday, lightening strikes affected much of the network in western Switzerland.

For the fourth day in a row, the Railways had to deal with a power failure on Saturday morning after a contact line caught fire outside Zurich, forcing a delay to some north-south connections.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR