The cause of the collision at a protected level crossing in Oss was unclear
Four children from a Dutch day-care centre have died in a collision involving a train and an electric cargo bike.
The children were being taken to local schools on the bike when the accident happened on a level crossing in the southern town of Oss, west of Nijmegen.
A fifth child and a woman were seriously hurt in the crash.
The woman on the back of the cargo-bike had just dropped off a child at one school before cycling to another.
Little is known about what led to the accident near Oss-West station.
The children who died were of primary-school age, which in the Netherlands can start at four.
Although the level crossing has barriers, unconfirmed reports suggest the cargo bike carrying the five children had gone under the barrier on a bike path before it was hit.
Witnesses said 15 cars had been waiting at the level crossing when the cargo bike had gone past, the Volkskrant website reported.
‘Unacceptable’ casualties on level crossings
The tragedy came as a shock for residents in Oss, where a help centre was set up.
Rail officials were shocked by the tragedy which took place near Oss West station
“We’ve been hit very hard. All our sympathies are with the families, the school, the day-care centre and everyone else caught up in this,” said mayor Wobine Buijs-Glaudemans.
An average of 11 people are killed on Dutch level crossings every year and the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) released a report in July saying the number of casualties was “unacceptable” in “the only country in Europe with both a high volume of train traffic and a large number of level crossings”.
The OVV was responding to three accidents in 2016 and 2017 in which two people had died and 18 were hurt. Most accidents had happened on manned level crossings, it said, calling for action to prevent people going over the crossings when barriers were down.
Rail officials on Thursday spoke of an “ink-black day” and infrastructure secretary Stientje van Veldhoven said she had a “knot” in her stomach. “From the bottom of my heart, all the best to everyone involved.”
Prime Minister Mark Rutte tweeted that he was deeply moved by the “horrific accident”.