Information from the locomotive's event recorder shows that the train had accelerated to a speed of 122 km/h although a 40 km/h speed restriction was in force at the point of the derailment.
About 2 kilometres before Brühl station track maintenance work was in progress and a speed restriction of 40 km/h had been imposed. The recorder shows that the train had slowed to comply with this. The normal line speed for the area is 120 km/h, but the restriction is in force to a point beyond the station.
Points at the station had been set to divert the train from the main line onto a loop. The speed of the train appears to have been too great for it to negotiate the switch safely.
Investigators will want to know why the train accelerated before the end of the speed restriction. It may be several days before they have can question the 28 year-old driver who is receiving medical treatment for shock.
No mechanical defects have yet been found with the train, the track or signalling. German Railway Union officials have rejected any criticism of the driver stating that he "new the road". The driver had received his intitial training as driver with a private rail freight company and later transferred to Deutsche Bahn where he received further training.
The train was locomotive hauled and consisted of 9 passenger vehicles including 3 sleeping cars. The train was thought to be carrying about 300 passengers.
The accident occurred shortly after midnight. The locomotive failed to take the reverse curve of the entry onto the loop and plunged down an emabankment. It came to rest against the wall of a house having demolished a garage at the rear of the house and a balcony. An elderly couple who live there were unscathed.
One of the coaches narrowly missed another house. Another coach was thrown onto its side and one was crushed against canopy support pillars on the station platform. The 3 sleepering cars were marshalled at the rear of the train and their occupants escaped relatively unhurt.
Late on Sunday, German authorities announced that the death toll had been revised downwards from 9 and gave a new total of 8 dead. Officials said that the reason for the confusion was the "mangled state of the wreckage". Ninety-six people were injured, around 50 of them seriously.
As a mark of respect, flags on public buildings in Brühl were flown at half mast.
Join the discussion
Deutsche Bahn (German Railways)
Nederlandse Spoorwegen (Dutch Railways)
Cologne U-Bahn collision - Brake defect known hours before accident
24 Aug 1999
Eschede, Germany: ICE High Speed Train Disaster 03 June 1998
Seven days . . .
. . . web focus on rail safety and accidents in the last week
Copyright © David Fry 1999