Image courtesy of Associated Press
Eleven people are confirmed dead following the crash of an SNCF high-speed train which was conducting a test on 14 November, 2015, near Strasbourg, France.
Five people are still missing and 37 injured, among them children who were believed to be on board, although it is not yet confirmed why there were children aboard the train during high-speed tests. It is believed that they were members of the families of technicians and staff on board, but this was not approved by SNCF.
SNCF Chairman Guillaume Pepy said at a news conference yesterday that so far, the accident is inexplicable. Sabotage or a further terrorist attack, following the horrific events in Paris on 13 November, 2015, have not been ruled out, but are considered unlikely.
The black box has been recovered, and will be examined along with all other evidence as part of an official investigation. An eyewitness said that she saw that the train was travelling very fast, and so it may have been that the train simply derailed due to excessive speed on the bend, and indeed this was confirmed by a source close to the investigation who reported that the train was travelling at around 350km/h when it derailed and caught fire. The lines operating speed is not greater than 320mph.
Among the 49 people on board the train at the time of the crash, most of them were technicians and railwaymen and some members of their families. Some of the technicians are believed to have been Alstom employees.
One carriage of the train remains partially submerged in a canal in Eckwersheim, a town near the German border.
The train was running on the LGV Est Europenne (LGV Est) network which runs from Paris to Strasbourg as well as into Germany. Phase 1 of the route was delivered in 2007, and Phase 2, which the train was testing, was due to open in April 2016, although this now seems unlikely.
The specialised test train was a EuroDuplex Dasye 744. It had been running tests on the line for two months when the accident occurred. The train is manufactured by Alstom and is part of the 700 class. They have the same motor as a TGV POS and are fitted with ERTMS.
The initial report into the crash has concluded that there were no abnormalities in the condition or operation of the infrastructure, that there was no issue in the condition or operation of the train, and no significant issue in traffic management.
Therefore, the train’s speed of 243km/h at the time of derailment, being significantly faster than what had been proscribed, is the likely cause of the accident.
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