Accident rates for rail crossings have not been declining. In their security, the Czech Republic is one of the worst countries in Europe
Press release to audit No. 17/33 - 15. 10. 2018
The Supreme Audit Office focused on the safety of rail traffic and passengers between 2013 and 2017. Auditors were mainly concerned with safety at railway crossings. The Ministry of Transport and the State Fund for Transport Infrastructure allocated over CZK 2,6 billion (of which more than 900 million were EU funds) to the Railway Infrastructure Administration (RIA) in order to solve safety shortcomings at railway crossings. For these funds, railway crossings were to be modernised and rebuilt, which should lead to a reduction in the number of accidents. In particular, auditors have examined how allocated funds contributed to the removal of risk locations and what impact the funds had on the safety.
The number of accidents did not decrease significantly in the years concerned — 165 accidents in 2013, 159 in 2017, and the numbers were similar also in the years in-between. Over the same period, an average of 35 people per year died at railway crossings. The Czech Republic has therefore been one of the worst countries in Europe in this regard. One million inhabitants get a share of three deaths at railway crossings in the Czech Republic. For comparison: in Poland the same population accounted for 1.4 deaths, 0.5 in Bulgaria, and 0.4 in Germany.
Although the Ministry of Transport itself emphasised the need to improve safety at railway crossings, it did not fulfil the task of presenting an analysis to the government in 2008 in which specific risk crossing points were to be identified as well as funds required for reconstruction, timing, etc. There was no such an analysis at the time of the audit. As it was not determined which railway crossings are dangerous and which are not, it was not possible to assess how allocated funds had contributed to the removal of risk locations. In 2016, the RIA at least produced a document assessing around one third of the 340 crossings on rail corridors. From these, 24 top risk crossings were identified, the solution of which was already in preparation at the time of the audit.
Between 2013 and 2017, there were 812 accidents at railway crossings in the result of which 175 persons died and 406 were injured. Total damage amounted to almost CZK 500 million. The minimum of accidents happened at railway crossings secured by crossing barriers - around 15 %. On the other hand, those crossings equipped only with lighting devices were responsible for the most accidents — approximately 46 %. The remaining accidents, around 39 %, took place at crossings secured only by warning crosses. In these cases, the audit was carried out at crossings on less busy roads and on railway lines with lower frequencies and a slower operation of train sets.
Auditors also focused on 10 constructions where 77 crossing points were renovated or modernised. There were no major deficiencies in the preparatory phase, similarly to the construction works themselves. However, an analysis of bidders’ offers and procurement procedures revealed a possible scope for savings — for example, for the assembly of so-called ‘relay interlocking boxes’, for which the RIA's Civil Engineering Administration East paid an average unit price of CZK 18 000, while the RIA's Civil Engineering Administration West CZK 105 000. Such significant differences should be looked into by the RIA, whether and to which extent they are justified.
Supreme Audit Office