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France

‘Detached staple’ caused deadly French train crash

© AFP

Video by FRANCE 2 , Luke SHRAGO

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-07-15

A train derailment at a station south of Paris on Friday was caused by a 10kg piece of metal – compared to a staple between two rails on a switching system – coming loose, French national rail carrier SNCF has confirmed.

French national rail carrier SNCF confirmed Sunday that a train derailment that killed six people and left 200 more injured on Friday south of Paris was caused by a detached piece of metal in a switching point on the tracks.

The SNCF has already taken blame for Friday evening’s crash, which occurred at the start of a busy holiday weekend.

Map of Brétigny-sur-Orge

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“The SNCF considers itself responsible,” rail company chief Guillaume Pepy said. “It is responsible for the lives of its clients.”

The packed train, carrying around 385 passengers, was traveling below the speed limit at 137 kph (85 mph) when it derailed, skidded and slammed into the station platform in the small town of Brétigny-sur-Orge outside the capital. It was 20 minutes into a scheduled three-hour trip to Limoges in central France.

Pepy said investigators found that a 10-kilogram (22-pound) piece of metal he compared to a staple between two rails in a switching system, which guides trains from one track to another, seems to have “detached itself from the rails, lifted, then constituted the initial cause of the derailment.”

Investigators were looking into how this happened since another train had traveled safely through the station about 30 minutes before. In addition, they were trying to determine why the train’s third car was the first to derail.

Pierre Izard, another SNCF official, said the metal piece “moved into the centre of the switch and in this position it prevented the normal passage of the train’s wheels and it may have caused the derailment.”

Although for now it appears track failure was the cause of the crash, Pepy added: “There can be no (definitive) answer in a few minutes, in a few days.” He also said that all of the approximately 5,000 metal pieces on switching systems around France will be checked.

The train was about 12 miles (20 kilometers) into its 250-mile (400-kilometer) journey to Limoges.

The crash was the country’s deadliest in 25 years, but Transport Minister Frederic Cuvillier said it could have been worse and praised the driver who sent out an alert quickly, preventing a pileup. However, Cuvillier acknowledged that there was some criticism that France hasn’t invested enough in maintaining infrastructure.

Willy Colin of the Rail Users Association was among those who claimed the Paris-Limoges inter-city line was neglected in favor of more high-profile fast-train lines. He said on BFM-TV that trains on the line were among the oldest, calling them “garbage trains.”

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

 

Date created : 2013-07-15

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