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Investigation Blown signal to blame in Rafz train crash

The trains collided in the early morning hours of February 20


A recent train crash in the town of Rafz between Schaffhausen and Zurich was caused by one train failing to obey a signal under unusual circumstances, the Federal Railways has announced.

Six people were injured in the crash between a commuter and a regional train on February 20, one of them severely.

The accident occurred because the commuter train left the Rafz train station at 6:40 am without obeying  a signal to wait. An automatic emergency brake was engaged at the signal but the train was already travelling at a high speed and did not come to a halt until it was partway onto another track. That’s when the regional train came along, travelling the other direction at 110 kilometres per hour and sideswiping the commuter train.

The Federal Railways also said the signaling and security systems at the Rafz train station were working. However, because the automatic braking system is mostly intended for trains that stop at the station and then continue in the same direction, it did not work ideally for the commuter train, which turned round at the station.

The company has put in place extra security measures for turning trains in some areas, especially where trains turn at least once per day. But this did not apply to Rafz.

New system to address problem

The new European Train Control System (ETCS) security system set to be installed across the entire Federal Railways network by 2025 will ensure that trains are no longer able to move forward mistakenly after having turned. The railways are now investigating whether such a system can be implemented sooner.

In the meantime, trains that have turned are being told to drive more slowly until reaching the first signal, increasing the chance “that the train can be stopped before a dangerous point in situations like the one in Rafz,” the Federal Railways wrote.

Two of the six people injured in the crash remain in hospital, with one set to be released in the coming days. The most severely injured person, the 49-year-old driver of the regional train, remains in hospital but out of critical condition following an operation, according to the Federal Railways.

Map of the area:

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