Organizational effects of experience from accidents. Learning in the aftermath of the Tretten and Åsta train accidents

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, mode - rail, planning - safety/accidents


Accident investigation, Learning, Rail, Comparative analysis


This article explores possible signs on learning in organizations following two major railway accidents in Norway, the Tretten accident in 1975 and the Åsta accident in 2000. These are the most serious railway accidents to have occurred in the past decades and both involved collisions on a single track system. The two events have been analyzed and compared in order to investigate possible learning effects and possible differences in learning given the 25-year span between them. The study is based on the analysis of selected documents related to the accidents in general and the narrative components in the documentation related to learning in particular.

Our findings indicate that learning from these events was not expressed as an explicit goal in the aftermath. Learning in these cases seems to be linked for a large part to a change in measures, technical, operational and organizational, but we have not observed any managed confirmation or comprehension processes. The Tretten accident report suggests that the possibility of human error should be mitigated through the implementation of technological barriers, while it omits all other elaborations and risk reducing measures. The Åsta accident report recommended that the work to introduce modern safety management principles that had already been initiated before the accident should be continued. Neither of the accidents yielded any new insights and the knowledge brought forward was merely perceived as confirmation of already-agreed changes.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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