On Saturday, whilst still reeling from the horrific events of Friday night, a second tragedy shocked France, when a TGV test train fell off the tracks with a number of deaths and injuries.
The train was testing the behaviour of the line at a variety of speeds from 160kph unto 352kph, as part of a programme of tests before commercial opening of the new line between Paris and Strasberg due in Sprng 2016
The TGV train derailed at a canal bridge and split in two, with carriages being scattered into surrounding fields, and one engine falling into the canal, in a scene one government minister described as apocalyptical. A mushroom cloud of black smoke was visible. It was fairly quickly concluded that this was not a further terrorist act.
Ten people died at the scene, with an eleventh death in hospital. A further 43 people were injured, including four children.
SNCF are considering three alternative possibilities: a failure of the train, an infrastructure failure, or human error. One particular line of inquiry is the speed of the train, which is being tested at speeds of up to 352kph, although the speed limit on this part of the line was 176kph. The driver is reported as saying that he had kept to the speed limit.
The train is a normal commercial TGV train specially equipped with the necessary measuring equipment which may provide extra information. Although they were supposed to publish initial results of their primary inquiry this morning (Wednesday) this is delayed until Thursday as the train’s ‘black box’ is still with the prosecutor in Strasbourg.
The line was supposed to open in March 2016, although it is not clear whether this will now be delayed.
Our sympathy is with the families of the people involved in the accident and we hope the injured make a speedy recovery.