Italian station master in deadly crash: ‘I let the train go’

ROME, July 14 (UPI) — A station master who admitted allowing a train to continue minutes before a head-on collision with another train that killed 23 people said he is not the only one at fault on Thursday.

Tuesday’s crash on the remote single-track line between the cities of Andria and Corato in Italy’s southern Apulia, or Puglia, region also injured 52 people.

“I let the train go, I was the one who gave the signal,” Andria station master Vito Piccarreta told reporters on Thursday. Piccarreta, who has been suspended along with the Corato station master, has worked for Italy’s Bari Nord train network for 24 years.

At least three trains were traveling in the same area at the time of the crash because rail services were late. The section of the railway track in which the crash occurred did not have an automatic alert or brake system.

“There was some confusion, the trains were late. But I’m not the only one at fault,” Piccarreta said. “I’m not the only one at fault, everyone is blaming me. But I’m a victim too.”

Funerals for victims will begin over the weekend. A federal investigation was launched and Italian authorities said they are focusing on an alert system that relies on telephone calls. They said human error is the main line of inquiry as the cause of the crash.

Graziano Delrio, Italy’s minister of infrastructure and transport, on Wednesday told Italian Parliament that the single-track line system in which station managers communicate directly with train conductors is “one of the least sophisticated and most risky.”

The bidding process to update the track and safety system north of the city of Bari will begin soon but millions of euros in European Union funding allocated in 2009 to replace single-track lines have not been used. Ferrotramviaria, the company that runs the track north of Bari, has blamed Italian government bureaucracy for the lack of progress.

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