The rail authority SNCB has announced it is suspending testing of its new LINDA safety procedure after a train left the platform at Brussels North station with its doors open.
The train’s guard quickly applied the emergency brake, and the situation was soon rectified. Otherwise, the mistake could have had severe consequences.
The new safety procedure concerns precisely that eventuality: how to be sure trains can never pull away without the doors being securely closed.
The search for a new safety system was triggered in 2009 when an accident occurred at the station in Dinant.
The train conductor was standing in the open door, giving the signal to depart, when a passenger approached and tried to enter. The conductor prevented him, but the man persisted.
At that moment the train began to pull away from the platform, and both men went under the train. Both men were injured, and the conductor lost both legs.
Following that accident, it took seven years of research to develop the DICE system, which turned out to be too complex. Then came LINDA, which this week began testing on all passenger trains travelling on the line between Ostend and Brussels.
The system works as follows: when the doors are closed, and only then, the conductor sends a message by smartphone or smartwatch to the driver, who received the signal on their tablet, and is cleared for departure. The communication takes place via 4G internet.
The system appears to have failed this week, however. The driver received the departure signal, but the doors were at that moment still open. Fortunately, the conductor was able to deploy the emergency brake and the train came to a halt several metres on.
The reason for the problem is not known, but the tests have been suspended on all trains for the time being.
“We don’t want to take any risks,” said spokesperson Dimitri Temmerman. The system is now being thoroughly analysed. “Only when we have found a solution will LINDA be restarted,” he said.