Safety 'fully respected' in level-crossing failure

The newspaper La Provence shared a video showing the train passing by with the barriers raised

No one was put in danger by the failure of level-crossing barriers in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence last week because safety procedures were fully followed, says the train firm concerned.

Régie Régionale des Transports, which operates Chemins de Fer de Provence, told Connexion the incident at Chabrières which attracted criticism after a regional newspaper shared a video, was not an isolated one – such break-downs are not a regular occurrence but do happen occasionally, for example due to power cuts, a maintenance problem such as faulty IT or electric cables or due to a vehicle colliding with the barrier.

Managing director Vincent Guillaume said: “Power cuts can be linked to the fact the train goes through isolated, mountain areas. But in this case the problem was due to a faulty circuit breaker [part of the electronics] which was causing the level crossing warning lights to flash constantly, so we had to switch the level crossing off.

“In this case we were aware of the problem in advance and in those situations we have safety procedures – which were applied.

“The short, eight second, video which has been shared does not allow people to see the whole process. You can’t see if there’s a staff member on the ground and you can’t appreciate what action has been taken to get the cars to stop, though you can see that the cars have stopped some distance from the train, not right next to it.

“You can’t tell that the train has stopped before – but in fact it did stop, and used its horn, and made sure that the cars had stopped.”

He added that the procedures are specific to this line, and fully permit trains to continue under these circumstances, as long as the correct measures are taken. This is not necessarily the case on SNCF lines, he said, however the Chemins de Fer de Provence service, also known as ‘le train des Pignes’, is separate. It is a rural service from Nice to Digne-les-Bains, used by tourists and locals.

Asked if the firm checked if in fact a staff member got out to stop traffic on this occasion, he said: “We’ve looked into it, because when there’s a video like that we want to make sure that we did actually do everything, especially as you don’t see everything in the video.

“My first conclusions are that we respected the safety measures: the train stopping a first time, the train stopping a second time a little further along… We respected the whole of the procedure.”

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