June 8. 2023. 9:37

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Slovakia’s train investigation body doesn’t meet EU directive criteria

The investigation body under the Transport Ministry and main shareholder in railway operator ŽSR and trains operator ZSSK is not permanent and independent as required by the Railway Safety Directive, a source from the Commission told EURACTIV Slovakia.

The Railway Safety Directive requires member states to establish a permanent and independent railway accident investigation body.

Slovakia’s set-up, however, violates Article 22 of the directive, which states that each EU country must ensure investigations of accidents are conducted by a permanent body comprising at least one investigator able to perform the function of investigator-in-charge.

“When the national investigating body (NIB) is the structural unit of the Ministry, the decisive element on independence is whether the Ministry takes any decisive role in the management of any rail undertaking or infrastructure manager, such as main shareholder or presence in the Board or Supervisory Council,” the source said.

“If this should not be the case, then the independence criteria will not be met”.

When asked why no action had yet been taken, the source said the “Commission is currently assessing Slovakia’s transposition of the directive”.

Most EU member states have had active railway investigation bodies that produce annual reports for years in place for years. Greece, however, only set up its own after 57 died during a train crash on 28 February.

As for Slovakia, the Commission has not started an infringement case against Greece.

“The Commission has various tools at its disposal to play its role in monitoring the application of EU law, of which infringement proceedings are just one,” the EU spokesperson told EURACTIV, insisting that the EU executive has been “in touch” with Greek authorities.

Recently, the Czech express train Pendolino derailed near the Slovak city of Žilina, probably due to the poor state of the Slovak railway.

Czech railway company ČD officially complained about the state of Slovak railways in a letter addressed to ŽSR, saying the “poor conditions” are causing financial damage to ČD.

(Michal Hudec | EURACTIV.sk)

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