Puglia train crash kills over 20

Over 20 dead in head-on rail collision in southern Italy.

At least 20 passengers have been killed and many more seriously injured in a collision between two trains on a single track in Puglia in southern Italy. Many of the dead are thought to be students travelling to and from university in Bari, as well as foreign tourists now on holiday in Puglia, a popular region of Italy at this time of year.

At present there are no indications as to why the accident took place although a spokesperson for the operating company Ferrotramviaria Spa has said that one of the trains was clearly in “the wrong place at the wrong time.”

The line between Corato and Andria in the region of Puglia belongs to Ferrovie del Nord Barese, a private company formed in the 1930s.

Much of the railway system in southern Italy has remained in private hands, while the north and central Italy comes under the state ownership of Ferrovie dello Stato and is operated mainly by Trenitalia.

The Ferrovie dello Stato has been asked to provide as much expert help as possible to Ferrotramviaria.

In the last few decades much of the investment in Italy's railways has gone into developing high-speed tracks and trains. Most of the high-speed network is between Naples and the north of the country and the concentration on this sector, in which Italy is one of the world's leaders, has been at the expense of regional and local trains in the rest of the country. This has happened at a time when commuter traffic is increasing as passengers give up their cars to travel by train, where ticket prices have remained low.

The previous most serious rail accident in Italy happened in 2009 in Viareggio near Lucca, when a goods train derailed and caught fire killing 32 people and 25 injured.

Previous to that 71 passengers, mainly students, lost their lives when a train plunged off the Fiumarella viaduct in Catanzaro, southern Italy in 1961.

The prime minister Matteo Renzo has cut short a visit to Milan to return to Rome to follow events.