2013 Train Crash: Damning Report for SNCF

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Despite its proud and relatively accident-free record, French national railway company SNCF appears negligent in leaked elements of a report on last year’s fatal accident in Brétigny

On the 12th of July 2013, the derailment of the Intercity Paris-Limoges train at Brétigny-sur-Orge resulted in the deaths of 7 and the injury of a further 32 people. An independent expert commissioned by authorities has just delivered the mains conclusions of his report which appears to point the finger at the lack of adequate track maintenance of the Paris-Limoges line, according to today’s issue of Le Parisien.

Robert Hazan concluded that the cause of the accident was a third car in the train whacking against a splint – a kind of clip connecting two rails on a switch zone – which pivoted on one of its clamp bolts. In saying this, however, the judicial expert also points to some alarming maintenance deficiencies:

“Out of 154 bolts examined by the expert on the sector, 59 of them – or over a third – were unscrewed, broken or simply missing from their placings!”

On the first part of the area examined, which contains 77 bolts, 18 of them were not screwed in properly, of which one was not screwed in at all and 3 of which were missing. It is these three missing bolts that precipitated the shaking of the gauge splice bar that was at the origin of the accident, according to the expert.

“We would draw attention to the fact that, considering the frequency of passengers on the line, the nut-and-bolt system should be present and regularly re-screwed,” emphasized Mr Hazan. However, given the state of the tracks, “when the Intercités 3657 passed through, the accident was inevitable at the time,” he concludes.

A previous report that was made public on the 10th of January and originating from the bureau of enquiry of terrestrial transport accidents and which established the principal cause of the accident, also pointed to the deficiencies concerning the quality of assembly and maintenance of the bolted parts of the tracks and asked the SNCF and the RFF (national railway management company) to carry out a review of their maintenance systems.

The SNCF and the RFF, who have not been prosecuted for the accident at this point, are not commenting on this latest leaked document. Already, a commission of international experts have been gathered to analyse the maintenance policies of the French railway network and are focusing on the question of bolting down the tracks. They are due to give their recommendations during the summer.

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