Railways Head to Be Charged Over June 2006 Wreck

The Central District Prosecution yesterday decided to indict the director general of Israel Railways for his role in a June 2006 train accident near Beit Yehoshua that killed five people and wounded dozens.

Ofer Linczewski will be charged with causing deaths by negligence. The prosecution intends to raise the same charges against Israel Railways Deputy Director General Harel Evan and Israel Railways' national supervisor of transportation and road accidents, Yuval Bloom.

The decision to indict follows months of police investigation that unearthed numerous deficiencies in the company's safety procedures.

"The more we investigated, the more clear it became that the way the rail system was run was itself a disaster," the head of the rail accident investigation, team Yigal Hadad, told Haaretz.

"We found that people working there have no idea what their job is or what they're responsible for, and do not know the procedures ... The rail system's management has been one big fiasco since the establishment of the state," he said.

"An engineer in the rail system said, 'They told me the most important thing is for the train to speed ahead and go fast, even if it's at the expense of safety.'"

The accident took place when a Tel Aviv-Haifa passenger train collided with a pickup truck stuck on the tracks near Beit Yehoshua, south of Netanya. Less than two hours before the accident, an Israel Railways lookout left the site because there were few trains.

The site is one of Israel Railways' busiest areas, with 300 trains passing through daily.

Linczewski told police that the procedures were in place long before he became director general.

However, the police and prosecution said they found many safety deficiencies and shortcomings that many people knew about. Had they been fixed in time the crash would have been avoided, police said. They say Linczewski and other senior railway officials were directly responsible for many of the problems.

The indictment is subject to a hearing.