Driver leaps from runaway Swiss cargo train after brakes fail

Driver leaps from runaway Swiss cargo train after brakes fail

The driver of a Swiss cargo train was forced to leap from the vehicle after he discovered that the brakes had failed. The man was admitted to hospital after the jump, with the driverless train carrying on for a further 15 kilometres before coming to a halt.

SBB cargo train's brakes malfunction

According to a report from 20 Minuten, the SBB cargo train in question was carrying goods from Brig to Domodossola in Italy on the night of November 22. Just as it passed through the Simplon Tunnel through the mountains, the driver on board discovered that the brakes had failed, meaning he was unable to slow the vehicle. 

He quickly informed the Italian authorities about his predicament, made worse by the fact that the line after the tunnel is largely downhill. “The incident was extremely dangerous… If the driverless freight train had collided with a passenger train and derailed, many people could have lost their lives,” Walter von Andrian, editor-in-chief of the Swiss Railway Review, told 20 Minuten.

Driver leaps off train going 60km / h

After alerting the emergency services, the driver decided to try and get off the train. While the train was still travelling at 60 kilometres per hour, the driver jumped out of the cabin onto the platform at Pregalia train station in Italy. SBB Cargo confirmed that he was injured in the incident and had to be rushed to hospital. “It was extremely lucky that the train driver survived this jump,” noted Association of Swiss Locomotive Drivers and Candidates president Hubert Giger.

The vehicle continued to travel for 15 kilometres without a driver before finally coming to a halt, with the train pictured passing through a freight yard without anyone on board: 

Video: vcoazzurra TV / YouTube

Full investigation launched into Swiss cargo train incident

On the Italian side, the railway police said that they took all the measures necessary to divert, slow and stop the then-driverless train. “The emergency braking systems along the railway line made it possible to first slow down the train and then stop it on the sidings in the Domo II freight yard without causing any damage to the infrastructure or to the train itself,” noted police spokesperson Anna Parrella.

“What happened on Wednesday morning is worrying,” Crevoladossola Mayor Giorgio Ferroni told 20 Minuten, noting that a more serious incident on the line would be extremely damaging to Italy and Switzerland. Both the Italian police and Swiss Federal Railways will now be conducting an investigation into the incident, specifically into what caused the train’s brakes to fail. It is currently unclear whether any action will be taken against the driver.

Thumb image credit: Michael Derrer Fuchs /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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