Train accident in Morlanwelz: Infrabel acquitted, fine of 160,000 euros for SNCB

The Charleroi Criminal Court handed down a fine of 160,000 euros on Monday afternoon, with a simple partial suspension of 3 years for half the sentence. Infrabel has been acquitted of all charges. The manager of the Belgian railway infrastructure and the SNCB were prosecuted for involuntary assault and battery and manslaughter as well as for preventions linked to well-being at work following a double accident which occurred in the space of a few minutes at Morlanwelz and in Strépy-Bracquegnies (province of Hainaut), on November 27, 2017. Two Infrabel workers lost their lives after being hit by a self-propelled railcar which broke off while being towed. The public prosecutor had requested fines of 35,000 euros for SNCB and 30,000 euros for Infrabel.

On November 27, 2017, around 07:00, a first train accident took place at the level crossing of the Chaussée de Mariemont in Morlanwelz. A vehicle immobilized on the level crossing was hit by a train on line 112 Marchienne-au-Pont-La Louvière. “The car was dragged for 380 meters before igniting. The fire spread to the driver’s cab of railcar 442. A recovery team from the Charleroi technical workshop was sent to the scene, with a lifting train to evacuate the train immobilized on the track”, said the public prosecutor. The lifting train arrived on site around 2:45 p.m. and the uncoupling of the two railcars that made up the train proved impossible. It was therefore decided to tow the two railcars to the Piéton station. “In the meantime, an Infrabel team intervened on site to repair the damage caused to the track at the site of the first accident.

At 7:44 p.m., one of the two self-propelled railcars detached and rolled down the slope in the opposite direction without anyone on board, without brakes, without making noise and without the slightest light during the night. Two Infrabel workers lost their lives after being hit by the train which broke away from the convoy while they were working on the track. Around 8:05 p.m., the railcar collided with a train injuring several people in Strépy-Bracquagnies”, indicated the labor auditor. According to the public prosecutor, Infrabel and SNCB committed a lack of prevention and foresight at the level of possible risks. following this type of situation. Fines amounting to 30,000 and 35,000 euros had been requested against Infrabel and SNCB respectively. The Belgian national railway company was already sentenced to a fine of 35,000 euros in June 2020 for a lack of well-being at work and for involuntary blows and injuries to members of staff. On January 29, 2021, Infrabel was fined 60,000 euros before the Brussels Criminal Court in the accident file. in Buizingen in February 2010. SNCB had pleaded for a stay of judgment, Infrabel had, for its part, pleaded for an acquittal for

all preventions. The Belgian rail infrastructure manager believed that SNCB was responsible for lifting the train stuck on the track. “The SNCB is specialized, at the time of the facts, in the lifting operations. Not Infrabel. It is not up to Infrabel to detect any risk on a work which was to be carried out by the SNCB”, underlined Me Kennes, the one of Infrabel’s lawyers.

During the pronouncement, the Charleroi Criminal Court considered that the possible consequences following an operation to uncouple the two railcars should have been determined. “It also became apparent that there is a problem with the training of train drivers and lift staff.” The blatant lack of knowledge of the lifting staff on the equipment on which they are called upon to intervene was singled out, as well as the absence of practical training. “Which is not acceptable. The training of the lifting staff is insufficient,” said the criminal court.

The suspension of the pronouncement pleaded by the SNCB was deemed “inadequate”. A simple partial reprieve was granted to “encourage the efforts” put in place by the Belgian national railway company.

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