September 1, 2007 | Ken Reed

Maglev Crash Operator “Just Forgot”

In September of last year, a German Maglev train crashed into a maintenance vehicle at 170 kph.  23 people were killed, and the system is still shut down.

According to this link, a control room operator is being charged in the incident with manslaughter through culpable negligence.  In this brief article, it says that the operator had “simply forgotten” that the maintenance vehicle was still on the track.

Without access to the full report, you have to wonder what else came out of the investigation.  Any system as complex and potentially dangerous as this would be assumed to have multiple safeguards in place to prevent this type of accident.

  • Are there visible and audible warnings on the control panel?
  • Since the system can see train positions on the tracks, are there automatic interlocks in place?
  • How did the maintenance crew document their use of the track?
  • How is a “maintenance vehicle” annotated on the panel?
  • Who approves the opening and closing of track segments for maintenance?

If the major safeguard in place is “operator must remember that the track is not clear,” it is not surprising that the accident occurred.  Hopefully, the full results of the investigation will contain more than just “discipline the employee.”

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