Runaway train sparks traffic chaos in Sweden

Runaway train sparks traffic chaos in Sweden
A train derailed in Sala, Sweden, on Monday. Photo: Per Groth/TT
UPDATED: A passenger train travelling from Mora to Stockholm tore up asphalt, a level crossing barrier, and an electrical wire cabinet when it went off the rails in central Sala on Monday morning.

Nobody was injured when the train derailed just outside Sala railway station, around 100 kilometres north-west of the Swedish capital, in the morning rush hour at around 9am, a spokesperson for the Swedish Transport Administration (Trafikverket) told The Local.

“It was driving towards a stop sign, so it was going at a very low speed. The passengers have been evacuated and have been put on replacement buses,” said Lars Hedström.

The train after it derailed in Sala on Monday morning. Photo: Per Groth/TT

Traffic in both directions was disrupted and travellers rerouted via nearby Västerås while inspectors examined damage to the train and tracks. Trafikverket said in an update on its website on Monday afternoon that the railway through Sala was expected to be out of use until Friday.

“It must have been a proper derailment, because the train had torn up asphalt and had brought with it an electrical cabinet and a barrier. Luckily the asphalt seems to have stopped the train; if it had had time to gain speed things could have been catastrophic,” said Jan Eriksson, a reporter at the TT newswire and a witness at the scene.

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Authorities were not able to confirm in the morning what had caused the train to derail, with witness reports varying from claims a tree had blocked the tracks to assertions the chilly Swedish October weather had caused the rails to become slippery.

“I would take all of that with a pinch of salt. We never speculate but will let officers carry out their investigation. But I've heard these rumours. Many have said that the train was going at full speed, but if that had been the case the result would have been much worse,” said Hedström.

The train travelled another 100 metres before it came to a halt. Photo: Jan Eriksson/TT

Fatal train crashes are rare in Sweden, with the most high-profile derailment in recent years being when a commuter train carrying only one person, who was seriously injured, crashed into a house in the Stockholm suburb of Saltsjöbaden in 2013. 

“We have been spared from serious derailments such as the ones they have had in the US and France. But smaller ones happen every now and then. You can't have missed the debates about the state of the Swedish railroads, that there is a lot of maintenance needed,” said Hedström.

Meanwhile, trains between Uppsala and Stockholm ground to a halt after an overhead wire was torn down near Upplands Väsby in the morning. It was predicted to cause traffic delays for the rest of the day.