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SNCB and Infrabel fined for 2010 Buizingen rail disaster
Belgian rail firm SNCB and track operator Infrabel have each been fined €550,000 for their role in the 2010 Buizingen rail disaster - Belgium's worst in 50 years.
Nineteen people died and 162 were injured - 11 seriously - when two busy commuter trains collided head-on in the morning rush hour on the outskirts of Brussels on 15 February 2010.
An initial investigation found that the driver of the Leuven to Brain-le-Comte stopping service ran a red light, putting the train on a collision course with the Quiévrain to Liège intercity, which was travelling at 70kph and took 600 metres to come to a halt.
A Brussels court ruled on Tuesday that while the driver of the stopping train who ran the red signal was partly responsible, the absence of an automatic braking system and the use of an old locomotive on the train were also major contributing factors.
The judge said: "If infrabel had invested heavily in security, there would have been no deaths."
The court heard that the driver of the stopping service had been disciplined in the past for running a red signal.
But the judge also recognised that the driver's cab was cramped and that working conditions and visibility were far from ideal.
The court ruled that the driver's share of the compensation - €37,000 - should be paid by the SNCB.
While SNCB must pay its fine in full, Infrabel's penalty was part-suspended, meaning the rail operator must only pay half (€275,000).