The driver of a coast tram was fighting for his life last week after an accident on 8 June in which 20 people were injured. The tram, travelling southwest from Knokke to De Panne, ran into a crane at full speed at the site of roadworks in Oostduinkerke.
The accident adds considerably to the total for accidents and injuries on the coast tram this year of 62, involving one fatality, one serious injury and 22 minor injuries, most of them to passengers in the tram. In 2010 there were 290 accidents, 80 of which involved injuries. Most of those involved passengers who fall over inside the tram; there were 47 cases involving collisions.
The exact cause of the accident is not clear. Mobility minister Hilde Crevits visited the West Flanders headquarters of De Lijn, which operates the tram, on Thursday. “The staff of De Lijn are in shock after the accident,” she said. “I tried to be encouraging. I’m grateful to the emergency services for their speedy response.”
De Lijn had ensured that proper safety procedures were in place, but Crevits has asked for them to be reviewed. The accident will also be investigated by the prosecutor’s office in Bruges. A re-enactment of the accident was due to take place this week.
In a works zone, speed limits are reduced to 30 km/h, compared to a tram’s maximum speed of 70. The tram is not fitted with a tachograph to record its speed, but, according to De Lijn, the tram was running to schedule, suggesting it was travelling at a normal speed – something confirmed by witness accounts.
Last week the tram driver underwent surgery, after which his condition was said to be critical. Five passengers were seriously hurt. Among the other injured were five children from a school near Liège in Wallonia.