(20.11. STORY UPDATE on cause of accident at base of page.)
Investigators at France’s national rail company, SNCF, have launched an urgent enquiry into the catastrophic derailment on Saturday which has killed at least eleven people, with five more still listed as missing. Twelve people remain in critical condition among the 37 injured. The accident happened during a test run in north-eastern France, of a next generation TGV train that was due to go into service in Spring 2016. The train derailed, caught fire and ended up partially submerged in a canal in the town of Eckwersheim, near the France-German border.
49 passengers were listed as being on-board, mainly technicians and SNCF staff, but it has also been confirmed that children were also on-board. It has not been confirmed if any of the children were among the fatalities, nor who they are though it is believed most likely are the sons and daughters of SNCF staff.
SNCF chairman, Guillaume Pepy, told a news conference and reported in the Guardian the accident was a huge shock” and that “so far the accident is inexplicable.” Pepy told French radio that the inquiry would determine who rode along with the test team and “in what circumstances were they allowed to board this train. SNCF does not approve this practice … a train test is a train test.”
In a weekend that saw terrorist attacks in Paris, this is not thought to be connected but instead an accident, the causes of which are yet to be confirmed. The derailment happened at reportedly around 350km/h or 217mph is the first fatal accident on-board a TGV (French: Train à Grande Vitesse, or "high-speed train") since they went into service in 1981.
The new trains are designed to provide faster trips from Paris to parts of eastern France, Strasbourg and eventually into Luxembourg, SNCF board member Jacques Rapoport said on Sunday that it was now "reasonable to assume" that the high-speed Paris to Strasbourg line would not be opened next April as planned.
UPDATE (20.11): Excessive Speed Caused TGV Derailment - SNCF released an initial report the initial conclusions in the report include:
- No abnormalities in the condition and operation of the infrastructure
- No issue in the maintenance of the train
- No significant issue in traffic management
However, investigators from the SNCF Security Audits Branch state the train was at a speed of 243 km/h at the point of derailment, significantly higher than that prescribed for the test.
Further information on investigaton is available (In French) on the SNCF website at http://www.sncf.com/fr/presse/a-la-une
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