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Author Topic: Italian high-speed train derails near Livraga  (Read 1029 times)
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« on: February 06, 2020, 09:56:10 am »

Initial reports say that the leading two vehicles derailed, and one struck a building. Two drivers were killed. The train was a very early one from Milan south via Bologna, with hardly anyone on it at 05:30.

The location is a maintenance depot, where there are loops off the high-speed line, one of which connects to the depot tracks, and the building struck was part of this depot.
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« Reply #1 on: February 07, 2020, 01:00:06 pm »

I was expecting more detail to be reported, and to some extent it has. This from LBC has one of those premature-looking statements from a prosecutor, that “the switch was placed in a position it shouldn’t have been”:
The state railway Freccia Rossa train went off the rails on the heavily used Milan-Bologna line while travelling at nearly 300kph (180mph), Civil Protection chief Angelo Borrelli told state radio.

Maintenance work had been carried out on a nearby track switching area less than two hours before the derailment, prosecutor Domenico Chiaro told reporters at a news conference.

The train that derailed was the first train to pass through the area after the work was done and “the switch was placed in a position it shouldn’t have been”, he said.

“We’re looking into the hypothesis of human error that could be linked to the maintenance work” as a possible cause for the accident, Mr Chiaro said, stressing that no conclusions had been reached yet.

Sabotage or a terror attack have been ruled out, the prosecutor said, and investigators have recovered the train’s black box recording.

“The (engine of the) train rammed a series of obstacles” before finally stopping, Mr Chiaro said, including a nearby building used for storing railway equipment and tools.

The engine car ended its fatal trajectory flipped around 180 degrees.

State railways said the two fatalities were train engineers.

Prefect Marcello Cardona said another rail worker was seriously injured.

Among the 27 passengers hurt in the derailing, one was seriously injured, authorities said.

“The engine car kept going, hundreds of metres, at high speed,” Mr Cardona told reporters at the crash site near the town of Ospedaletto Lodigiano.

Mr Chiaro said the crash occurred at about 5.50am local time (4.50am GMT), several minutes after a scheduled stop as the train travelled from Milan south to Bologna.

Police said the train had about 30 passengers.

Only one passenger was in the first car, a business-class car, that ended up on its side.
Police walk out of a carriage of a high-speed train after it derailed in the countryside near the town of Lodi, northern Italy
The train derailed in the countryside near the town of Lodi, northern Italy (Antonio Calanni/AP)

The train passenger cars further back remained upright.

One passenger, interviewed by state TV, likened the moment of the crash to being on a rollercoaster for 20 seconds.

Authorities said it was possible that the engine car automatically decoupled from the cars behind it as part of a safety mechanism during derailments.

This really was a very lucky escape for all those on the train except the two in the leading power car. If that was derailed when it hit a turnout at 300 km/hr, it would have been pretty brutal, as can bee seen by the front end of the next vehicle. The power car pulled that off the rails too and then detached, and set off into the lineside depot, going through an engineering train, and smashed into a building with extreme violence.

This can be seen in an overhead video in this ABC report. The collision made a hole in the building, destroyed the front end of the vehicle, which then spun round and finished behind the building.

The rest of the train can be seen to have run between two tracks, with its first carriage on its side, for about 500 m. That is very unusual - the natural tendency of a derailed train is for the leading vehicle to run off to the side, until the extra drag turning it (or an obstruction like OLE supports) makes it jackknife. Once that has happened the whole train will usually concertina or stop very fast and be largely wrecked. So it really was lucky that it all kept running straight and mostly upright.

It seems to have stayed close beside a cable route, resembling a fence. I can only guess that something about the leading carriage's dynamics pushed it towards that barrier, holding everything in line.

The more I see it, the more miraculous that looks.
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« Reply #2 on: February 07, 2020, 10:29:18 pm »

There's been some very detailed explanations coming out in Italy already - see for example railforums (which has several pictures). I'll just put here a couple of salient points and corrections.

The end vehicle is not a power car; there are four motor carriages so the mass distribution is pretty uniform. The leading vehicle may have started to roll and to spin from from the start.

The work overnight was specifically to the points that were set wrongly when the train arrived. Its content was to remove the actuator and clamp in the straight-on position, and confirm this. Receipt of the confirmation, plus the absence of any adverse detection inputs, allowed the train to run at line speed. That must be giving infrastructure and maintenance managers (and others) everywhere nightmares.
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