By Tom Mellen:
Privateers blamed for Argentinian train tragedy
Thursday 23 February 2012
Rail workers blamed chronic underinvestment and light-touch regulation today for Wednesday’s devastating train crash in Buenos Aires that killed 50 people and left 675 injured.
Almost all the victims were in the first two carriages of the commuter train which ploughed into a barrier at the capital’s Once station after overshooting platforms and missing at least one station entirely.
It slammed into a shock-absorbing barrier at 8.33am, smashing the front of the engine and crunching the much lighter cars behind it.
President Cristina Kirchner has declared a two-day mourning period.
As a probe into the cause of the tragedy got underway rail workers’ reps blasted the drying up of investment following the privatisation of state rail firm Ferrocarriles Argentinos in the 1990s.
Speaking on Radio Del Plata rail union leader Roberto Nunez lambasted privateer Train of Buenos Aires (TBA) for “irregularities and deficiencies” on the Sarmiento line it controls.
TBA concedes that it spends just 12 per cent of its operating costs on maintenance.
And Mr Nunez warned that some rolling stock on the line dates from the 1950s and ’60s.
TBA has bought many cast-offs from other countries and uses hundreds of Japanese-made “Toshiba Classic” rail cars that were built over 40 years ago.
Union rep Edgardo Reynoso said the crash “is the responsibility of a company known for its low maintenance and improvisation.
“There is also a lack of control by state agencies.”
Mr Reynoso pointed out that the the Argentinian government heavily subsidises the private rail firms – which then squander the public funds “with overseas purchases while not making adequate repairs in the braking systems.”
He said railway workers who refused to drive trains over safety concerns “have been disciplined in writing.”
University of Buenos Aires urban planning expert Mariana Schweitzer added that the rail network “is not regulated heavily enough.”
Driver Antonio Cordoba remains in intensive care.
Privatisation Derailed Argentina’s Rail System: here.
Argentinian President Cristina Fernandez gave investigators 15 days to determine responsibility for last week’s deadly train crash on Monday: here.
See also here.
Popular anger has erupted in Argentina over evidence that a train accident that killed 51 people was the result of decades of neglect of the country’s passenger rail system: here.
Argentina’s government has taken a rail franchise off a privateer which ran a line where 51 people died in a February crash: here.