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ARGENTINA | 13-05-2024 16:24

Court probes two drivers for Palermo train crash, but focus turns to signallers

President Javier Milei’s government will declare a “railway emergency” following crash on San Martín line last week, reveals presidential spokesperson.

The investigation into last week’s rail crash in Palermo, Buenos Aires, is progressing with focus on the two train drivers involved in the incident as well as signal-workers. 

The incident on the Palermo viaduct of the San Martín line last week left at least 60 injured and court authorities have placed two drivers and their assistants, together with three attendants at the Palermo station, under investigation.

No direct liability has been determined yet.

Police sources say that the strongest hypothesis would fall on the signallers’ tasks and a possible failure to warn the drivers.

“A locomotive with one carriage was circulating in the direction of Palermo at a low speed. The passenger train had to be stopped, but the attendant missed it and authorised its passage,” one source linked to the case told Perfil.

The investigation contemplates different hypotheses including a possible “human failure.” 
Potential mechanical or electrical failures are also being explored, in addition to the impact of a signalling system weakened by the recent theft of electric wiring.

The Transport Safety Board (JST) has been called to provide technical reports and conduct expert examinations, especially regarding visibility at the site of the incident. 

Federal Judge Julián Ercolini and prosecutor Alejandra Mángano, who is replacing Carlos Rívolo who is away, have formally requested a report from the JST, as well as a series of expert examinations.

The main working hypothesis at the moment seems to be human error, though investigators are now focusing on the role played by two signallers who may have given “free way” to the passenger train that had left Retiro at 10.20am, even though a cargo train was still at the Figueroa Alcorta bridge.

The trains and carriages involved in the crash have been removed for inspection and in the meantime, train services are being run by a manual control system and radio orders, due to the damage to the usual signalling system. There is a reduced service running between Villa del Parque and Pilar as a result.

If the infrastructure is found to be at fault, rather than human error, then the case may be reclassified as property destruction by negligence or extreme recklessness aggravated by reported injuries.

On Monday, state rail firm Trenes Argentinos announced that special machinery is being used to remove the locomotive on the bridge above Avenida Figueroa Alcorta.

Infrastructure works to rebuild the affected stretch of tracks have already begun, though tests will need to be run after the work is finished, said the firm.


‘Rail emergency’

Speaking on Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Manuel Adorni revealed that the national government will declare a “national rail emergency” via decree in the wake of the crash.

“A railway emergency will be decreed, in line with the CNRT [National Transport Regulation Commision] report from late April,” informed Adorni, referencing a survey assessing the rail network.

The spokesperson said a decree would be issued via the Official Gazette in the next few days, though he was at pains to underline that the decision was not related to the crash. 

Adorni said the government would cooperate with the courts in any way necessary and said he understood that the accident was a result of “human error.”

He said the rail network is “devastated,” an assessment he said was shared by the “authorities of the companies who operate the train lines.”

Adorni said that cash had been wasted and not dedicated to the “maintenance and proper running of the system,” highlighting a state debt of “over US$100 million.”

Declaring a rail emergency would help the government speed up the release of funds to improve trains and the network, he added.


 – TIMES/NA

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