Saint-Laurent-Blangy english summary
On Thursday 9 June 2005, at 5:14 pm, the Regional Express Train (TER 848 932) from Lille, which was carrying 150 passengers, collided with a semi-articulated lorry loaded with 944 gas canisters (butane and propane with a total weight of around 12 tonnes) and immobilised on level crossing no. 83 in Saint-Laurent-Blangy in the Pas-de-Calais county. The accident provoked a fire causing the gas canisters to explode one after the other, creating a fireball that was visible from several kilometres away.
Despite the presence of many people in the area, nobody was hurt. However, material damage to installations, buildings and vehicles was considerable.
The initial cause of the accident was the rupture of one of the trailer’s compressed air lines, which caused the lorry to become stuck on the level crossing a few minutes before the TER was due to arrive. The driver of the TER, who had not been alerted soon enough, was unable to avoid the collision, despite carrying out an emergency stop. The presence of gas canisters was an aggravating factor and explains the magnitude of the explosion.
The fact that nobody was injured or killed, thanks to the sensible and quick reaction of the SNCF staff present at the scene and the particularly fortunate way in which the event unfolded, must not allow us to underestimate the danger involved in such a situation or the probability of it occurring.
The analysis enabled the BEA-TT to take into account two main types of causal factor when putting forward its preventive recommendations :
those relating to the infrastructures and their operation. The situation at this level crossing, which sees rail traffic of around 200 trains per day and average road traffic of 10,000 vehicles/day, 15% of which is heavy goods vehicles, is preoccupying.
those relating to heavy goods vehicles, driver behaviour and the transport of dangerous goods. The way in which the compressed air line to the trailer’s brakes ruptured, without any apparent external cause, leads us to highlight the particular care with which a vehicle used in the transport of dangerous goods must be maintained. Furthermore, had the driver sounded the alert more swiftly, the collision may have been avoided.
Regarding these different points, the BEA-TT has formulated three recommendations : the removal of this level crossing, a study into provisional measures to reduce the risks of collisions pending its removal, and the inclusion of critical situation procedures in the training given to drivers involved in the transport of dangerous goods.
Special attention should be drawn to the importance of checking brake lines as part of vehicle and trailer maintenance.