Passengers injured in Swiss train collision

Firefighters inspect the site of a train crash at the train station of Rafz, northern Switzerland, on Feb 20, 2015. Two trains slammed into each other north of Zurich early on Friday, leaving passengers injured, Swiss police said. -- PHOTO: AFP
Firefighters inspect the site of a train crash at the train station of Rafz, northern Switzerland, on Feb 20, 2015. Two trains slammed into each other north of Zurich early on Friday, leaving passengers injured, Swiss police said. -- PHOTO: AFP

RAFZ, Switzerland (AFP) - Two trains slammed into each other near the Swiss city of Zurich early Friday, tipping over carriages and injuring at least five people, police said.  

A conductor was in a serious condition after the crash, which saw ambulances, fire and rescue services rush to the scene as a rescue helicopter hovered above.  

A regional intercity train hit a commuter train at the Rafz train station, around 30 kilometres north of Zurich and not far from the German border at around 6:45 am (1:45 pm Singapore time), police and media said.  

One of the trains derailed, and several carriages tipped on their side. The locomotive was smashed in, with broken glass and twisted metal visible through a gaping hole in the side.

“There are five injured, one seriously, the conductor,” a regional police spokesman told AFP at the scene.  

Switzerland’s national rail service SBB said the trains had been travelling in the same direction and that one had sideswiped the other where two tracks merge.

“The circumstances of the accident are being investigated,” SBB said.  

An 18-year-old passenger on the commuter train told the 20minutes daily the train had just begun pulling out of the station on its way to Schaffhouse when the conductor hit the brakes.  

“An express train from Zurich came up from behind and hit the side of our train. The intercity train derailed,” said the unidentified man.

Services on the train line between the towns of Bulach and Schaffhouse have been suspended until further notice.  SBB personnel, wearing fluorescent safety vests and helmets, were milling around the site, checking the damaged carriages.  

SBB said it had secured the tipped cars so they would not topple over completely.

The Swiss are Europe’s top rail users, and their network is normally envied abroad for safety and quality.  But a number of accidents have blemished that reputation.  

In a dramatic incident last August, a landslide derailed a passenger train in the Swiss mountains, on a popular tourist route between the upscale Alpine resort of St Moritz and the eastern city of Chur.  

One carriage plunged into a ravine and terrified passengers packed into the rear of another carriage to use their weight to prevent it tipping over the edge.

Around a dozen people were hurt and one man later died of his injuries.  In July 2013, two passenger trains collided at a station in western Switzerland, killing one of the drivers and leaving 35 injured.  

Switzerland counts 122 kilometres of rail lines on average for every 1,000 square kilometres – compared to only 46 kilometres on average in the neighbouring European Union.