One of the causes of Wednesday’s train accident was broken communication and control cables between Riyadh and Dammam, according to a source.
Thirty-five people were injured when the Saudi Railways Organization (SRO) train from Dammam to Riyadh carrying 332 passengers derailed near Al-Khurais junction, about 70 km from Riyadh.
Railway authorities ordered an investigation shortly after the accident occurred.
“Some unidentified people stole the optical fiber cables that link the special control system of the railway tracks between Dammam and Riyadh, causing the damage to the system that resulted in the failure of the switching devices to respond to commands,” Al-Eqtisadiyah daily quoted a source, who did not want his name published, as saying.
President of the SRO Abdul Aziz Al-Hoqail canceled his vacation in the United States to supervise the official investigations.
In another development, Hamed Al-Abdul Qader, acting SRO president, said in a statement on Saturday that the SRO meted out severe punishments to negligent drivers who had caused accidents in the past.
“The punishments of train drivers, assistant drivers and other officials who are responsible for accidents included dismissal from job, imprisonment of varying durations and salary cuts,” Al-Abdul Qader said. The severity of the punishment depended on the gravity of the negligence or mistake, he added.
“The violations for which officials are punished include speeding beyond the prescribed limit and negligence of instructions about tracks,” he said.
All train drivers, assistant drivers and other officials related to the movement of locomotives are subjected to intense training programs. They are also supplied with handbooks on the train operations for ready reference, Al-Watan daily reported yesterday.
The SRO provides cash incentives to workers who operate the trains in an ideal manner, he added.
The official attributed the cancellation of two trains running between Dammam and Riyadh to malfunctioning of two power supply coaches. The coaches were damaged in the latest accident, he said.
SRO technicians are trying to fix the damage and put them back on track, which he hoped would be accomplished in two days.
Ten people were killed and dozens injured in eight train accidents in the Kingdom since May 2006. In an accident in October 2010 five workers were killed. In January 2007, three passengers were killed in an accident. The other accidents occurred on Feb. 10, 2010; Jan. 26, 2010; Dec 12, 2009; April 9, 2007; and May 21, 2006.