Swiss railway technician tampered with hundreds of train brakes

The court ruling came to light after the technician appealed against his dismissal by SBB. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Rail passengers were put in “the greatest” danger after a Swiss Federal Railways (CFF/SBB) technician tampered with hundreds of brake controls last year, it has been revealed.

This content was published on September 3, 2021 - 12:29

A ruling by the Federal Administrative Court, published on Friday by the media group TamediaExternal link, said SBB had discovered in May 2020 that a SBB technician had interfered with hundreds of train brake controls over a period of several months last year while trains were in a workshop.

The 26-year-old man had allegedly entered fictitious values in a brake test system, the ruling stated. The result was that faulty brakes were not discovered and were subsequently installed in Swiss passenger trains, the report said.

"In the event of emergency braking, the train… could not brake fast enough," according to the court ruling.

The employee had "put railway operations and the safety of customers in the greatest danger", the SBB said, while insisting that it remained an “isolated case”.

Contested dismissal

The ruling came to light after the technician appealed against his dismissal by SBB. He denied having intentionally tampered with the brake controls. The court, however, supports SBB’s decision and arguments.

In court, the technician had been defended by the railway workers' union (SEV). The union does not dispute that a technical error was made. But it argued that the man had worked sloppily and he did not deserve to lose his job.

“There is no evidence that he deliberately tampered with the brake controls, there is only circumstantial evidence," said SEV Vice President Barbara Spalinger.

The Tamedia report said the case had been discovered after several colleagues reported it to their superiors. Swiss Federal Railways says all damage has been repaired and the affected brakes were properly checked. It is unclear how long the employee allegedly tampered with the controls.

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