According to figures released by the Gerencia de Operaciones del Instituto Costarricense del Ferrocarril (INCOFER) – Costa Rica’s railway has spent in the first six months of this year ¢20.430.000 colones (US$38.500) in repairs to the commuter train cars involved collisions at rail crossings.
Last year (2013) the train was involved in 63 accidents, this year the number is 34 in the first half of the year. However, in only 12 accidents did the train cars suffer damage.
The commuter train runs during weekday morning and afternoon in the San José area on three lines: the San José (Curridabat – Pavas – Belén (Heredia); the Heredia (Centro) – San José; and the San José (San Pedro) – Cartago.
“The conventional motor machines are much sturdier than the train cars, and not as affected at the Apollo units, which usually suffer structural damage, including windshields,” said María Fernanda Arias, spokesperson for the INCOFER.
The Apollo units are the newer, more modern engines purchased from Spain.
Train – vehicle collisions are a result of several factors: the lack of culture and respect for the train by Tico drivers, the lack of train level crossings (barriers), that the majority of the train crossings have no signalization, among others.
The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes (MOPT) junto con la Dirección General de Ingeniería de Tránsito worked out a plan to place signage at 29 railway crossings, specifically 19 on the Pavas – Curridabat (San Pedro) and 10 on the San José – Heredia rails.
The planned service to Alajuela has been delayed for at least one more year.
The other measure is to keep the trains at speeds below 40 km/h, this allowing the sensors along the tracks to alert of the oncoming train and lessen damage in the event of a collision.
However, a few practices by the INCOFER and drivers that continue to be a hazard. One, if the continuous use the railway crossing lights. Drivers get used to seeing the flashing lights, becoming “blind” to the signal. The second is the vehicles in traffic stopping on the rails, leaving little in the way of options in the case of an oncoming train.
Sources: INCOFER; CRHoy