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Fatal train collision in Bandung claims four lives, prompts authorities to investigate cause

Last Friday, a tragic train collision occurred in Bandung, West Java, involving two trains, resulting in the loss of four train crew members and 42 passengers injured.

The severity of the incident has prompted Indonesian authorities to investigate.

According to the Indonesian National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT), the country witnessed 29 train accidents from 2018 to 2022, three of which were collisions.

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INDONESIA: On Friday (5 Jan), at 06:03 local time, a tragic train collision occurred in Bandung, West Java, involving two trains on a single track, leading to the loss of four train crew members and leaving 42 others injured.

The incident took place between Haurpugur Station and Cicalengka Station in West Java, involving the Turangga Train (KA) en route from Surabaya Gubeng to Bandung and the Commuter Line Bandung Raya.

The severity of the incident has prompted Indonesian authorities to investigate the site. The initial focus of this investigation is to gather transportation-related data and assess potential regulatory or technical errors.

The Basarnas Bandung Rescue Team evacuates passengers affected by the train collision in Cicalengka, Bandung, West Java, on Friday (5 Jan). (Photo: Basarnas Bandung)

A video circulating on social media shows the collision resulting in several carriages derailing and some being lifted off the tracks.

 

Another video shared on X (formerly Twitter) shows the aftermath at the accident scene, depicting the collided locomotive lying at the side of the track, with authorities working on clearing the area and conducting investigations.

Passengers sustaining injuries have since been admitted to four different hospitals for treatment.

Ayep Hanepi, Manager of Public Relations for Indonesian Railway (PT KAI) in the Bandung region, confirmed the identities of the victims as Commuter Line’s locomotive engineer Julian Dwi Setiono, assistant engineer Ponisan, steward Andrian, and security personnel.

Joni Martinus, Vice President of Public Relations at PT KAI, explained that the re-routing was necessary as the crash site remained impassable.

Rescue operations have encountered challenges owing to the difficult terrain at the crash site, situated in a narrow area amidst fields near a residential area.

Hery Marantika, Head of the Bandung Search and Rescue Office, highlighted the complexities of the operation, citing the limited space, public interest hindering the rescue efforts, and the height of the train bodies.

To facilitate the evacuation process, heavy machinery, including a crane from PT KAI and equipment from the National Search and Rescue Agency (Basarnas), Mobile Brigade Brimob, and the National Armed Force (TNI), has been deployed to the scene.

The cause of the collision between the two trains is believed to be a communication obstruction, hindering the locomotive engineers’ visibility and communication.

In response to the incident, the National Transportation Safety Committee (KNKT) has formed an investigative team to probe the collision.

“We are currently gathering factual data and information, including witness statements while awaiting investigation results from fellow field investigators. We will conduct a comprehensive analysis of the factors contributing to the accident and coordinate with various relevant parties,” stated KNKT Chairman Soerjanto Tjahjono.

According to Aditya Dwi Laksana, Head of the Railway Division of the Indonesian Transportation Society (MTI), incidents like the collision between the Baraya and Turangga Trains, known as “goat fighting,” have been extremely rare in the past decade.

He attributed the accident primarily to the single track on the Cicalengka-Haurpugur route.

“Technically, on a single-track, having more than one train, either in the same or opposite direction, on the same stretch of track is not permissible, as this increases the potential for collision between trains,” Aditya explained.

Other contributing factors may include deviations from operational procedures, human resource factors, and infrastructure issues present at the time.

Double-track railway in construction on the train accident route

BBC Indonesia reported that the government, through the Ministry of Transportation, is undertaking the construction of a double-track railway on the train accident route.

The transportation authority has mentioned on various occasions that the new train route project aims to improve services for train users, primarily by reducing travel time.

However, the safety aspect has not been highlighted as the primary objective of building the double track.

In February 2022, for example, the Director of Railway Infrastructure at the Ministry of Transportation, Harno Trimadi, stated that the double-track project would shorten travel time and potentially increase the number of passengers by up to 25%.

“The existence of the double track cuts travel time on the Bandung-Cicalengka route, which currently takes 43 minutes. It is hoped that with the construction of this double track, it can be reached in 30 minutes,” said Harno at that time.

Last December, Harno was sentenced to five years in prison in a bribery case related to repairing level railroad crossings in Java and Sumatra for the 2022 fiscal year.

The Ministry of Transportation has initiated a double-track project worth Rp1.3 trillion (approximately US$83.7 million), aiming to construct a 23.5-kilometre double-track railway from Kiaracondong to Cicalengka, divided into two phases.

However, when the collision between the Turangga train and the Commuter Line Bandung Raya occurred, the second phase of the project had not been completed.

29 train accidents from 2018 to 2022, including three collision

According to KNKT data, Indonesia witnessed 29 train accidents from 2018 to 2022, with three being collisions.

Train derailments accounted for the majority of incidents during these four years, totalling 17 cases.

Between 2019 and 2022, there were 1,142 accidents at level crossings, with 1,004 occurring at unguarded level crossings, according to Ministry of Transportation data.

Resolving the issue of level crossings was estimated to require a budget of approximately Rp300 trillion (approximately US$19 billion), as reported by the Ministry of Public Works and Public Housing in September 2022.

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