Signal-jumping likely cause of Swiss train crash

Swiss Federal Railways employees cover one of the trains after the collision, in Granges-pres-Marnand in Western Switzerland, on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. Swiss investigators Tuesday pointed to signal-jumping as the likely cause of a head-on train coll
Swiss Federal Railways employees cover one of the trains after the collision, in Granges-pres-Marnand in Western Switzerland, on Tuesday, July 30, 2013. Swiss investigators Tuesday pointed to signal-jumping as the likely cause of a head-on train collision in the west of the country that killed a driver and injured 25 other people. -- PHOTO: AP

GRANGES-PRES-MARNAND, Switzerland (AFP) - Swiss investigators on Tuesday pointed to signal-jumping as the likely cause of a head-on train collision in the west of the country that killed a driver and injured 25 other people.

"The investigation focuses on the likelihood that the train travelling from Payerne failed to respect a signal," Jean-Christophe Sauterel, police spokesman for Switzerland's Vaud region, told reporters.

The crash on Monday between two local trains occurred just outside the station in Granges-pres-Mornand, a village between the Geneva and Neuchatel lakes in Switzerland's French-speaking region.

One train had been travelling from the town of Payerne to the lakeside city of Lausanne, 38;, to the south, while the other was heading north from Lausanne.

The driver of the northbound train, a 24-year-old French citizen who lived in Payerne, was killed in the collision. His body was pulled from the wreckage Tuesday.

The two mangled trains were still on the track, with both engines lifted slightly off the ground as workers used beams to prepare to remove them for closer inspection.

The 46 people thought to have been travelling on the two trains were all accounted for, but police did not rule out the possibility of finding other victims as they combed through the remaining wreckage.

"We cannot rule out at this stage that there could be another passenger imprisoned in the wreck," Mr Sauterel said, noting that the carriage carrying the driver who was killed had been smashed in by eight metres.

Ms Jocelyn Corniche, the emergency services' chief physician, said that most of the 25 injuries were light, with two adults and a child still in hospital but not in danger.

The relatively slow speed of the southbound train, 40kmh, appeared to be one reason why more people had not died. The speed of the northbound train has yet to be confirmed.

Investigators were trying to learn why the southbound train, operating a slower service between a string of communities, failed to wait for the passage of the faster northbound service, which travels non-stop between Lausanne and Payerne.

Sauterel stressed that criminal responsiblity for the crash was not yet under discussion.

Swiss federal railway company CFF offered its condolences to the dead driver's family and insisted safety was a top priority.

News site 20minutes.ch reported that the driver who was killed, identified only as J.B., had been working for CFF for less than a year.

"I love driving my train," he wrote in a post on his Facebook page, according to the site.

The collision came in the wake of the July 24 tragedy in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, when a speeding train flew off the rails, killing 79 people.

A crash outside Paris a week earlier left seven dead.

The Swiss are Europe's top rail-users, and their network is envied abroad for safety and quality.

"We do not have a major safety problem," Meyer insisted.

After a clean sheet in 2012, however, safety has made headlines this year.

Two regional trains collided at Neuhausen-am-Rheinfall in northern Switzerland in January, resulting in 25 people suffering light injuries.

The following two months saw two trains derail and an engine fall off a bridge, but no one was hurt.

Another rail accident also happened Tuesday, when a 68-year-old Italian national was killed when his car was hit by a train in Suhr in northern Switzerland, according to local police in the canton of Aargau.