Eckwersheim english summary

On Saturday 14 November 2015 at 15:04, during an overspeed test carried out as part of the approval procedure for the second part of the East-European Line, the test train traveling on track 2 towards Strasbourg derailed shortly before the bridge over the Marne-Rhine Canal, at the entrance to the easement curve of the new line with the Paris-Strasbourg classic line in the Eckwersheim commune.
The train broke up ; the front engine and the six carriages that followed it scattered across the ground situated below the track and stopped after having crossed the canal using this momentum ; the tail engine fell into the canal and the two cars ahead ended up on the bank.
The victim toll was 11 dead and 21 seriously injured out of the 53 people who were on board the train.
The TGV train was completely destroyed and the railway bridge was seriously damaged.

The direct cause of the accident was the tilting of the power unit and the train from the effects of the centrifugal force resulting from an approach speed of 255 km/h in a tight bend with a 945-m radius.

This excess speed was due to the inappropriate braking considering the initial speed of the train when approaching the area that begins just before the bend in question where the recommended maximum speed is only 176 km/h.
This inappropriate braking was the product of three causal links :

  • an unsuitable braking strategy, resulting from flawed reasoning when establishing the pneumatic braking point at PK 402 in order to respect the 176 km/h ceiling at PK 403,809 ;
  • a misunderstanding between the traction transport unit (CTT) and the rest of the driving team on the braking methods, resulting in the release of the electric brake by the driver and maintaining a speed of 330 km/h until the pneumatic braking was triggered ;
  • an inter-phonic call during the braking, which disrupted the CTT and prevented them from seeing that the electric brake had been released contrary to the strategy that had been planned.

The root cause analysis led the BEA-TT to make six recommendations on :

  • the certification standard for high-speed lines ;
  • preliminary risk analyses ;
  • the qualifications of the test-driving teams ;
  • the test-driving teams’ equipment and methods ;
  • the organisation of test campaigns ;
  • records in the driver’s cab.

The report also makes a specific recommendation to implement "loopbacks" when security systems are to be deactivated.

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