Main duties of the unit
The Rail Accident and Incident Investigation Unit (RAIIU) is responsible for investigating operational accidents considered serious, occurring on the Belgian railway network. As well as serious accidents, the RAIIU is allowed to investigate other accidents and incidents with consequences for railway safety. The safety investigations carried out aim to determine the circumstances and causes of the event and not with apportioning blame. Every year, the rail industry informs us of numerous accidents, incidents and near misses. We do not investigate everything, but use various criteria to help us to decide which ones to examine. The Law under which we operate requires us to investigate certain types of accidents, particularly train collisions and derailments which have led to the death of one person, serious injuries for five or more people or damage estimated at a total of at least 2 million euros. The Law gives us the flexibility to decide to investigate less serious accidents.
Sometimes, we are informed of events in which serious consequences have been narrowly avoided. We look closely at whether it would be appropriate to investigate such incidents which, if the circumstances had been slightly different, could have resulted in a serious issue. The accidents and incidents are sorted according to the elements provided by the railway undertaking and the infrastructure manager, according to three levels of seriousness: serious, significant and other.
The decision to open an investigation is taken by the RAIIU independently on the basis of this information, potentially supplemented by a preliminary enquiry.
All the accidents and incidents reported by the infrastructure manager and by railway undertakings are recorded into the RAIIU database daily. In this database all events are catalogued based on the information provided by the railway undertakings and the infrastructure manager.
The database allows common safety indicators to be determined, as foreseen by European Directives.
The common safety indicators are published on a national level in the annual report of the Safety Authority.
Contact with the press is via the spokespersons of Federal Public Service Mobility and Transport, in accordance with the agreement protocol established between the FPS and the Investigation Unit.
The investigation reports are made public and are intended to inform the parties concerned, the industry, regulating bodies, but also the general public. This is why the RAIIU publishes, on the one hand in two languages (French and Dutch), the report and on the other hand in four languages (English, French, Dutch and German), summaries giving details of the main elements of an investigation. The report outlines the elements that have allowed conclusions to be drawn.
When the RAIIU decides to open an investigation, the website is updated.
The RAIIU takes part in the activities of the network of national investigation bodies, which takes place under the aegis of the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA). The aim of this network is to allow the exchange of experiences and to work together on the European harmonisation of regulations and investigation procedures.
The Law of 26 March 2014 regulates all requirements on the operational safety of museum railway lines.
A museum railway line has the main function of tourist-passenger transport with historical rolling stock, such as steam trains. These are abandoned railway lines which have remained in place and which are generally operated by a company operating tourist trains. To be able to operate a museum railway line, the operator must have authorisation, issued by the Safety Authority (DRSI).
This law stipulates that the operator of a museum railway line should immediately inform the RAIIU of the occurrence of a serious accident, according to the means determined by the RAIIU. It also foresees that the RAIIU carries out an investigation following every serious accident occurring on a museum railway line.