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Zagreb, Yugoslavia 1974


Yugoslav Federal Railways, Zagreb 30 August 1974: A Belgrade - Dortmund express failed to negotiate a curve just before Zagreb station. The accident which was due to excessive speed left 153 passengers dead.

The Belgrade - Dortmund express after the derailment outside Belgrade station
The Belgrade - Dortmund express was carrying 400 workers who were returning to their places of work in West Germany after having enjoyed a summer break with their families. The electric locomotive at the head of the train was in the charge two railwaymen who had each worked in excess of 300 hours that month.
At the approach to Zagreb, the line curves sharply just before the station. This curvature is severe enough to require the imposition of a speed limit of 48Km/h (30 mph). The train which was travelling at high speed, ignored a stop signal and proceeded to enter the curve at 60 mph (96km/h). The

Rail-passengers should be entitled to feel secure that those in charge of the safe conduct of their train are alert. The loco-men's work that month of 300 hours is an average of ten hours a day, and longer if they had any days off. It is not surprising that they were tired. This would seem to raise a number of questions about the practices and the management of the railway. How was it that they able to work such hours? Perhaps the railway management should have been held to share responsibility for having permitted exhausted employees to continue to work.
inevitable derailment left the train's carriages strewn across the tracks. With the death toll reaching 153 a national day of mourning was declared and President Tito personally ensured that it was observed.
At the subsequent enquiry, the driver and his assistant claimed that the locomotive's brakes had failed. However, tests proved that the brakes were functioning perfectly adequately. Investigators from Germany conducted tests on the rolling-stock and staged an experiment using similar rolling-stock to that on the express. They demonstrated that the accident would not have occurred if the train had obeyed the speed restriction. The crew were therefore held to be responsible and at their trial they admitted that they had fallen asleep. The driver was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment and his assistant received eight years.

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Copyright David Fry 1998
Created: Tuesday, August 04, 1998
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