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The BBC's Angus Roxburgh
"Belgium's good safety record on the railways is now badly tarnished"
 real 56k

The BBC's James Rodgers
"It appears to have been a case of human error"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 28 March, 2001, 14:56 GMT 15:56 UK
Belgian crash 'was avoidable'
Emergency services use cranes to search the wreckage
Rescue workers are still searching the wreckage
Belgium's deadliest train crash in a quarter century was a tragedy that could have been prevented, railway officials said.

Emergency phone number
00 32 2 525 45 45

A high-tech system planned to automatically stop trains that pass through red-lights was not yet fully operational, according to officials at the state railroad company SNCB.

The trains smashed into each other head-on Tuesday morning head-on in the village of Pecrot, about 16 miles (26km) east of the capital

The death toll of the train crash remained at eight on Wednesday when no more victims were found in the wreckage of the accident.

Click here for map

One person remained in critical condition and one child, who was presumed missing, has been found alive.

The drivers of both trains were killed as well as two other SNCB employees and four passengers.

We know that there were in fact two trains moving on the same track

Belgian Transport Minister Isabelle Durant
Rescue teams are still searching the wreckage. A crane was brought in Tuesday evening to help remove one of the train cars.

Belgian railway officials said the driver of an empty two-car train went through a red signal and ploughed into a southbound passenger train carrying about 30 people.

Signal operators spotted the train speeding on the wrong line at 95kph (55mph) and frantically tried to prevent the collision.

Cutting power to the line would have automatically triggered emergency brakes on both trains, but there was not enough time for them to stop safely.

'Fighting to escape'

Some of the four carriages of the southbound passenger train were crushed as the empty train ploughed into them; others were sent catapulting into the air, coming to rest on top of each other.

European rail crashes
Feb 2001: 10 die in Selby, UK
Oct 2000: Four die in Hatfield, UK
Feb 2000: Nine die in Bruehl, Germany
April 2000: Driver dies in Charleroi, Belgium
January 2000: 19 die in Oslo, Norway
Oct 1999: 31 killed near London, UK
June 98: More than 100 die in Eschede, Germany

Belgium's rail crash is the latest in a disturbing series of European rail accidents, but experts say train travel remains one of the safest ways of getting around the continent.

The total number of road accident deaths for 1997 in the EU amounted to 43,400 compared to just 139 rail fatalities, according to latest figures.

The EU statistics showed traveling by private car was 15 times more dangerous than train journeys.

Nevertheless, lobby groups said European rail authorities should invest more in safety.

"Rail is comparatively much safer than many other modes of transport. But even with rail there is a lot more to be done", said Frazer Gordon of the European Federation for Transport and the Environment.

Graphic showing where the trains collided

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27 Mar 01 | Europe
In pictures: Belgian train crash
27 Mar 01 | Europe
Eyewitness: Belgian train crash
27 Mar 01 | Europe
Europe's rail safety questioned
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