Railway safety in 2019 – initial summary


Railways in Poland have remained the safest means of land transport. Last year has brought the lowest number of accidents on railway tracks. Almost 30 serious accidents less were noted than in 2018. Initial estimates also show that the accident factor (number of accidents divided by operational service) has reached the lowest level since such data has been collected – 2.3.

579 accidents and serious accidents occurred in the railway network last year. This means a decline by 28 (4.6%) in comparison to 2018. The number of dangerous accidents on railway sidings fell by 9 (8.8%) to 114. – Railway services are safe and it is confirmed by data collected by the Office of Rail Transport (Pol. Urząd Transportu Kolejowego, UTK). We should be glad having reached in 2019 the lowest level of accident factor and number of accidents in years. However, one should note the rising number of deaths in incidents taking place on railway crossings – says Mr. Ignacy Góra, Sc. D., the President of UTK. – That’s why this year, on UTK’s initiative, a new system of category-D-railway-crossing monitoring will be tested. We have also produced an educational film for drivers and driving candidates, as well as have educated thousands of children in the framework of the Campaign Railway ABC – Mr. Góra enumerates recent activities, leading to improvement of safety on railway crossings.

Fig. 1 – Number of accidents on railway lines – 2014-2019

Rys. 1 Liczba wypadków na liniach kolejowych w latach 2014–2019

Low level of accident factor

The level of railway transport safety in a given year is best described by the so-called accident factor, which relates the number of accidents to the performed operational service. It provides an estimate that shows whether the number of accidents divided by the train-kilometre count is declining or rising. The lower the factor, the better the safety level. Taking into account the operational service estimates (a detailed result will be available on 31 January 2020), the accident factor dropped in 2019 to 2.3 – the lowest level in 5 years. It confirms a positive trend in safety improvement of the railway system.

Fig. 2 – Accident factor – 2014-2019

Rys. 2 Miernik wypadkowości w latach 2014 – 2019

Fewer accidents, more fatal casualties

The biggest number of accident types, which occurred in the railway system in 2019, were – as in previous years – accidents on railway crossings and due to trespassing of unauthorised persons onto the railway tracks. They amounted to 69.1% of all incidents in the railway system and remained at roughly the same level as in 2018. There were 205 accidents on railway crossings (10 fewer than in 2018). There were also 195 incidents in 2019, where a railway vehicle hit persons crossing railway tracks at stations and routes, having no authorisation to do so. In comparison to 2018 this means 8 incidents less. The number of rundowns at so-called “illegal” crossings may be subject to change, as there are still prosecutor’s proceedings ongoing. If such incident was qualified as a suicide, it is not taken into account in the accident statistics.

One should however be bothered by the fact that even though there were fewer accidents on railway crossings, the number of fatal casualties resulting from them rose by one-third – from 49 persons in 2018 to 66 persons in 2019 (34,7%). The biggest rise in fatalities in this group of accidents was noted with regard to rundowns occurring while a person was trespassing railway tracks (1 casualty in 2018 and as much as 14 in 2019). This matter will be subject to thorough analysis by UTK in the framework of activities on safety measures at railway crossings.

Fig. 3 – Number of accidents on railway crossing in general access and isolated networks – 2014-2019

Rys. 4 Liczba wypadków wskutek najechania na osoby podczas przechodzenia przez tory na liniach kolejowych w latach 2014–2019


Fig. 4 – Number of accidents resulting from rundowns while trespassing railway tracks – 2014-2019

Incidents within the railway system

Undoubtedly the area needing further improvement on the part of railway carriers are accidents stemming from failure to halt the train at the “Stop” sign or starting a railway vehicle without permission (so-called “Signal passed at danger” incidents, SPAD). There were 5 fewer such incidents (-14.29%) and 1 incident fewer (-1.16%). Still the number of such occurrences reaches the level of about 120 a year. It is necessary to curb this number due to potentially dangerous outcome of such occurrences for the railway system.

Fig. 5 – Number of SPAD incidents (cat. B04 and C44) – 2014-2019 (on lines and sidings)

Rys. 5 Liczba zdarzeń SPAD (kat. B04, C44) w latach 2014–2018 (na liniach i bocznicach)

UTK systematically monitors the cases where the “Stop” sign was missed. Each such occurrence is analysed as to its circumstances, the train-driver’s actions, but also the role of the carrier partaking in such an incident. In 2019 there were two meetings of the railway safety monitoring team held at UTK, during which SPAD incidents were discussed. – Last year we focused on activities, that should lead to the limitation of SPAD occurrences. I am convinced that meetings of the Railway Safety Forum, our film on the significance of the train-driver’s psychophysiological condition or meetings of the railway safety monitoring team will bear fruit in the coming years as to the decline in the number of SPAD occurrences – says President Góra. In his opinion applying the method of “Pointing and Calling” by train-drivers (as they do in Asian countries) could also lead to such effects.

In 2019, in comparison to the previous year, a significant rise in the number of reported incidents was noted, classified as “loutish misdeeds” (such as placing obstacles on railway tracks, devastation of energy-supply, communication or CCS systems, stones being thrown at passing trains). It reached a level of 252 such incidents (almost a 100%-rise in comparison to 132 occurrences of that sort in 2018). The President of UTK, together with the representatives of the railway market, will analyse the reasons of such significant rise of these occurrences in the last 12 months.


This report has been based on the data for 2019 available in the Railway Occurrences’ Register (as of 12 January 2020). Estimates have also been taken into account with regard to operational service figures in December of 2019. Having in mind still ongoing investigations by railway committees or other relevant state bodies, the provided data should be considered as temporary and may be subject to change.

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