A train station manager has taken partial blame for a deadly head-on collision that claimed at least 23 lives in one of Italy's worst rail accidents, according to media reports on Thursday.
The crash happened on Tuesday on a single-track stretch of railway run by station managers who communicate directly with train drivers, a system Italian authorities described as "risky."
"I'm the one who sent the train on its way," Vito Piccarreta, head of the Andria station, told daily La Stampa. "There was some confusion, the trains were late."
"But I'm not the only one at fault, everyone is blaming me. But I'm a victim too."
One of the four-carriage trains was supposed to have waited at a station to let the other train through, before heading down the track between the towns of Corato and Andria. The go-ahead to proceed is given by the station managers by telephone.
Investigators said at least one of the trains had been travelling very fast, and have believed from the start the collision was possibly caused by human error.
Three trains -- which is one more than usual -- were supposed to travel on the single-track section on Tuesday, which may have been the source of the confusion for the Andria station chief, according to a reconstruction by La Stampa.
However, the Corato station master, Alessio Porcelli, is also under investigation because he could have noticed a train was headed his way.
According to La Stampa, the line dates to 1965. It said a call for tenders to modernise the security system and lay a second track had been scheduled to open later this month.
About 55% of the rail network in Italy is single track. A pot of €150mn ($166mn) allocated by the European Regional Development Fund in the 2007-2013 budget to add second tracks went largely unused, the newspaper said.
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