TGV derailment in eastern France caused by landslide

A TGV derailment in eastern France yesterday morning - which injured 22 people, and is continuing to cause TGV disruption - was caused by a landslide, early investigations have shown.

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The train was on the Colmar-Selestat-Strasbourg-Paris-Est line, and derailed yesterday (Thursday March 5) at around 7h45, near Ingenheim (Bas-Rhin, Grand Est).

Authorities confirmed that 21 people were injured, plus the driver, who was initially in a critical state. His condition is no longer considered to be life-threatening.

Track obstruction due to landslide

So far, reports say that the inOui train left Strasbourg at 7h19, with 348 passengers on board. Passengers felt a bump at 7h45, as the train was travelling at 270kph.

This was later revealed to have been an obstacle on the track, which the train ran over, between Ingenheim and Saessolsheim, near Saverne (Bas-Rhin).

The driver performed an emergency brake, which caused the TGV to slide over rough ground for several dozen metres. The driver’s cab and the first four carriages were derailed, but the train did not fall over.

“The obstacle on the track” has been found to be part of a piece of embankment land that collapsed in a landslide next to the track.

This is what the TGV ran over, and what caused it to derail.

Photos by SNCF show a large part of the embankment sliding away from the land, towards the track. The train company described it as “a very sudden and large landslide”.

Photos of the scene show the landslide (Photo: SNCF / @GroupeSNCF / Twitter)

22 injured, including one seriously

Around a dozen ambulances were on the scene of the derailment within minutes.

It has been confirmed that 21 people were injured, plus the driver, who was in a serious condition. He was airlifted to hospital, but his condition was later described as non-life-threatening.

SNCF confirmed he had suffered a fractured collarbone and broken ribs.

An on-board chef was also confirmed to have hurt his back, and was given urgent medical care; while one passenger suffered facial injuries.

The other injuries were described as “light”, but some passengers were also treated for shock. Four of the injured people were hospitalised, with the remaining 18 examined by medical staff on-site.

Non-injured passengers were taken back to Strasbourg by bus.

Gendarmerie mobilised amid investigation

More than 100 gendarmerie attended the scene to “secure the area and make the necessary observations for the inquiry open by the Strasbourg prosecutor”, the local prefecture said.

Similar numbers of firefighters were also on the scene to assist emergency services with the injured passengers and staff.

An investigation into the incident is now underway. Ecology minister Elisabeth Borne announced on Twitter that she had asked transport accident bureau the BEA (le Bureau d'Enquêtes sur les Accidents de Transports Terrestres) to open an inquiry.

An internal inquiry at SNCF has also been opened. Train safety agency l’Établissement Public de Sécurité Ferroviaire is also involved.

TGV services disrupted

The incident caused services to be disrupted in both directions on the line, with disruptions expected to last for several days.

Trains are being rerouted via the Vendenheim-Baudrecourt line instead.

SNCF said that this was causing delays of up to 30-40 minutes for TGVs towards Paris, and delays of up to 90 minutes for TGVs leaving Paris or Brussels.

TER services have been unaffected.

In a statement, the Bas-Rhin prefecture said: “Lifting procedures are underway to evacuate the train from the rails. SNCF has estimated that re-establishing circulation on the tracks in question will take several days.”

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