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Egypt train crash report cites series of failures

Written by: Staff

CAIRO, Sep 5 (Reuters) An Egyptian government probe into the causes of Egypt's deadliest rail accident in four years today blamed a series of human, technical and administrative failures for the crash that killed 58 people last month.

The train crash in the Nile Delta town of Qalyoub on Aug. 21 was the first in a string of Egyptian transport accidents over the past two weeks that have sparked public anger at what critics call a government failure to enforce safety standards.

Following the crash in Qalyoub, Egypt fired the head of the state railway authority and pledged a quick investigation. The government also announced it would allocate 1.5 billion dollars for a comprehensive overhaul of the rail system.

The results of the probe, released by the state prosecutor, cited a breakdown in the antiquated state railway's signalling mechanism coupled with the failure of the driver of one of the trains to heed a working signal that instructed him to stop.

A console that identifies trains and their locations to control tower staff was also not functional.

The automatic braking system in one of the trains did work, but kicked in too late for the driver to avoid ploughing into a stationary train on the same track, a summary of the report said.

The report also said administrative failings contributed to the accident including hiring employees not qualified to operate sophisticated equipment, and asking them to work 12 hours a day.

It said the railway authorities failed to take adequate steps to punish train drivers who switched off automatic train control systems, and blamed a lack of financial resources for the inability of railway authorities to update equipment.

The Qalyoub train accident was Egypt's worst since 2002, when fire ripped through seven carriages of a crowded passenger train, killing 360 people.

More recently, two people were killed yesterday when an Egyptian passenger train and a freight train travelling opposite directions on the same track in rural Egypt collided head-on. Security sources had earlier said as many as five had died.

Reuters SHB GC2251

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