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Moscow metro emergency and human factor

July 23, 2014, 17:32 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Mihail Fomichev

MOSCOW, July 23. /ITAR-TASS/. The largest emergency on Moscow metro in its almost 80-year history that claimed 23 lives is still the major internal event a week afterwards. It is human factor that seems to be the underlying cause of the tragedy. Personnel conclusions followed: head of the metro has been dismissed, and new chief has been appointed. However, experts say this alone will hardly lead to a turnaround.

Three cars went off the tracks between the stations Slavyansky Bulvar and Victory Park on July 15 killing 23 and injuring 217. According to the investigators, the rail switch was held with a piece of three-millimeter wire that broke thus causing the crash.

Four suspects have been already arrested, including a track supervisor and his aid. Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin said it was inadequate discipline of certain employees that led to the tragedy, not the systemic and complicated engineering errors.

On Tuesday, the mayor sacked the subway chief Ivan Besedin with the words the emergency had annulled the great deal of work done during Besedin’s time in office. His place was taken by former director for high-speed service at Russian Railways (RZD), Dmitry Pegov. Notably, Besedin also came from RZD, which provoked some criticism for little knowledge of subway’s specific features.

Moscow metro is the city’s most popular means of transport. Last year, its daily average passenger flow exceeded 7 million (and 8.5 million on weekdays). Moscow metro transports twice as much passengers a year as the Russian railways (2.4 billion against 1.2 billion). And emergencies and interruptions are not a rare occasion - several major accidents have happened this year alone.

Unsurprisingly, Moscow metro often makes for politicians’ statements, and subway accidents grab the headlines. This time, the outraged public and Duma demanded Besedin’s departure.

Experts wonder if the reshuffle can guarantee such tragedies will not repeat in the future and what role human factor played in what happened.

“Change of management is a signal not to the employees but Moscow residents who demand the chief’s dismissal, it is rather a political story,” Deputy Director of the centre for human resources development at the Russian Presidential Academy for National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) Mikhail Kroshchenko told ITAR-TASS.

The situation in the metro control will now change dramatically anyway, irrespective of managers and the management process, the expert believes. Moreover, human factor was not just laziness and negligence, he said.

“This could be linked to work schedule as such. We are talking about night shifts, and the employees might have been working under excessive pressure,” the expert said.

“There is much room for guesswork but our work with Russian companies shows that accidents result not as much from oversight as from the fear to report problems to the boss,” senior research fellow at RANEPA centre for social and psychological studies Timofey Nestik told ITAR-TASS. The most high-profile technology disasters resulted from low trust among the personnel, the expert added.

Changing the management is not a cure-all, Nestik believes.

“Such catastrophes often lead to dismissals, and with chiefs is departing the knowledge that could help prevent similar events in the future,” he warned. “This ‘beheading’ frequently washes away the people who know how this happened and what is to be done to prevent a repeat.”

Positive impetuses could help avert such occasions in the future, said Nestik. Major companies’ experience shows that mistakes are inevitable, yet it is not punishment that will reduce the number of errors but trust and stimulation of positive results.


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