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1 dead, several injured in Dutch passenger train accident

April 4, 2023

One person has been killed and 30 more injured after a passenger train rammed into a maintenance crane in the Netherlands. Rescue personnel evacuated passengers from the crash, where a fire broke out.

A derailed NS passenger train near The Hague, Netherlands
The intercity night train from Leiden was carrying as many as 60 passengers when it derailed near The Hague, Netherlands Image: Kyrlian de Bot/REUTERS

A crane operator was killed and several people seriously injured Tuesday after a passenger train derailed 

roughly eight kilometers (five miles) north of The Hague in the Netherlands.

The train collided with construction equipment on a stretch of a track at one of the country's busiest rail corridors.

Emergency services were quickly dispatched to the scene to assist victims in the town of Voorschoten, a village between The Hague and Amsterdam

Between 50 and 60 people were aboard the double-decker night train from the city of Leiden, 30 of them were injured.

A fire department spokesperson said 19 people had been hospitalized and 11 had been taken to nearby homes for shelter.

"There was a heavy thud, windows shattered," said one passenger who was able to escape.

Most people were able to exit the train themselves, eventually climbing to safety on a makeshift ladder and bridge construction down a steep embankment and across a deep drainage ditch between the tracks and fields below.

Royal BAM Group, the largest construction company in the Netherlands and the ninth-largest in Europe, confirmed that one of its employees had been killed in the accident but offered no further comment.

How did the collision happen?

Upon striking the crane around 3:30 a.m. (CET), the front carriage of the train derailed and separated from the cars behind it, plowing into a field below.

The lead car crashed down an embankment coming to rest spanned across a drainage ditch. The second car was heaved up on its side on the incline, while a third car remained upright and fire broke out in the rear carriage. Firefighters were able to quickly extinguish the fire.

Aerial view of a derailed NS train near The Hague, Netherlands
The operator of the overturned crane, seen near the freight cars at the top right of this photo, was killed in the crashImage: Robin Utrecht/picture-alliance

John Voppen, CEO of the government's rail maintenance organization ProRail, told reporters that the crane had been parked on tracks not currently in use. 

"The crane was part of maintenance work on two tracks that were closed to traffic, while two other of four tracks total remained open," said ProRail's Voppen. "We have no idea how the crane got on the track that was still open for traffic."

Pro Rail says train service on the line will be shut down for days.

Dutch Railways (NS) immediately halted train travel to and from Leiden due to the collision.

Criminal probe underway

The Netherlands' Public Prosecution Service (OM) on Tuesday announced the launch of a criminal investigation into the incident. 

"This is a very, very unique accident but it's a horrible accident," said ProRail spokesman Jeroen Wienan in the hours after the incident. He said ProRail had initiated investigations alongside the Dutch Safety Board (DSB) national investigative bureau to find out "what happened and how we can avoid this in the future." 

ProRail CEO Voppen called it "a black day for Dutch railways."

Authorities asked that people stay away to allow authorities to conduct their work. 

King Willem-Alexander (center) walks along tracks near a derailed train outside The Hague, Netherlands alongside various authorities and emergecy services workers
The Netherlands' King Willem-Alexander visited the crash site, meeting with authorities and emergency services workersImage: Rvan Lonkhuijsen/Albert Nieboer/Rotapool/Roayal Press Europe/picture alliance

What have officials said about the Netherlands crash?

"A terrible train accident near Voorschoten, where unfortunately one person died and many people were injured," wrote Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Twitter, saying, "My thoughts are with the relatives and with all the victims. I wish them all the best."

King Willem Alexander expressed his and Queen Maxima's condolences on the Royal Household's Twitter account, writing: "Our thoughts are with the victims of the train accident at Voorschoten and their families. Many are now in fear and uncertainty. We deeply sympathize with all of them."

"This is an incredibly tragic accident. I sympathize with the victims. Unfortunately, there is also a fatality. My thoughts go out to all the family and friends of the people involved," said Voorschoten Mayor Nadine Stemerdink.

rmt,js/sms (Reuters, AFP)