Belgian crash highlights safety improvements

While the precise cause of the Halle train crash is obviously not yet known, it does appear that a red light was passed at danger. The Belgian railways are in the process of installing equipment that would prevent such an error but the scheme has not yet been completed.

A row is now emerging which suggests that the Belgian rail authorities are saying that stringent EU requirements on new signalling – presumably a reference to ECTS – means that recommendations made in 2004 to install fail safe equipment have not been carried out. This is clearly one of those cases where the search for perfection is the enemy of the good.

That fully justifies the decision to install the TPWS system in Britain. It was relatively simple technology that could be introduced quickly and at a reasonable cost. Sure, it is not perfect and there are circumstances where a crash might still be possible. But it was excellent value for money and has proved itself, with a reduction in SPADs and, crucially, no subsequent accidents.

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