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Human error to blame for June train crash

Human error and negligence, and not technical problems or sabotage, were to blame for Tanzania's worst ever train crash earlier this year in which nearly 300 people were killed, according to an official investigation.

The crash occurred on 24 June when a passenger train carrying over 1,000 passengers lost power and stopped as it was climbing a hill in Dodoma region. It then rolled back into the path of an oncoming freight train. The passenger train was travelling westwards towards Kigoma and Mwanza.

A report by the commission set up to investigate the accident concluded that the failure of the driver, his inexperienced assistant and the guard to react to the situation were the principal causes of the tragedy.

According to the report, hesitation and misinterpretation of the initial problem by the driver and his assistant resulted in the release of the emergency break and the train beginning to roll back down the hill. The guard is also blamed for failing to apply the handbrakes on the carriages themselves once the train began rolling backwards.

Fears that the train may have been sabotaged by Tanzania Railways Corporation (TRC) workers, who are said to be unhappy with an ongoing privatisation process, were dismissed in the report. Likewise, the crash could not be put down to technical problems as the engine, carriages and track were in "good condition".

However, confirming the suspicions of many analysts, the report does allude to the fact that the third class carriages were "overloaded".

In conclusion, the report said that with 75 percent of Tanzania's rail accidents being caused by technical problems, the government should help TRC buy new engines and carriages and the safety procedures should be made more stringent.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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