DB Derailment at Garmisch, 3 June

Austriantrain

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For all to be investigated that means they still don't really know what happened I assume? As I can't think off the top of my head of a situation where it would be all three of their
faults, unless of course it is a Swiss cheese style situation.

The fact that they are being investigated doesn’t mean anything at this point (except that the investigators do not completely exclude that it *could* be human error); it’s a normal procedural thing to keep things correct and their rights as potential future defendants intact, including their right to have counsel, remain silent etc.
 
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paul_munich

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The fact that they are being investigated doesn’t mean anything at this point (except that the investigators do not completely exclude that it *could* be human error); it’s a normal procedural thing to keep things correct and their rights as potential future defendants intact, including their right to have counsel, remain silent etc.
Exactly!
One of the guys investigated is the driver, who is at no fault as he was not speeding, the other one is the signalman, who, at 99%, is also at no fault.

And, there were NO planned engineering works at the site of the accident, engineering works were planned between Farchant and Oberau, north of the accident site!
 

najaB

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Can argue all you like about closing speed, kinetic energy etc but the loco had to deal with that as well as force on loco and unit would have been equal in magnitude at time of collision.
By definition the locomotive will be of much more sturdy construction since it has to be heavy enough to provide the tractive effort. Which is the exact opposite of a carriage which is designed to be as light as possible, while meeting the crashworthiness requirements.
 

Richard Scott

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By definition the locomotive will be of much more sturdy construction since it has to be heavy enough to provide the tractive effort. Which is the exact opposite of a carriage which is designed to be as light as possible, while meeting the crashworthiness requirements.
So back to my original point that a unit would have been no better in this collision?
 

Giugiaro

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They are though, there's more to crashworthiness than 'can the damage be buffed out?'. The goal is protecting the passengers and crew, modern trains generally do a good job at that - the frame underpinning modern European units is very sturdy. After a crash the outer bodywork might look like a wreck but this is very much by design.

Exactly. Most modern trains have designated crumple zones in all carriages made to absorb kinetic energy during a crash.
Passengers are not restricted with seat belts nor have the luxury of airbags. The slower the deceleration, the higher the chances of survivability.

The Soure accident had no fatalities on the Pendolino, despite impacting another rail vehicle head-on at 96 MPH.
Meanwhile, while the Alfarelos accident had no fatalities, the 40-year-old (now 50 yo) EMU peeled like a banana with an impact clocked in at 26 MPH.
Had there been passengers during rush hour, there would've been carnage like never seen before in the country.
 

AlexNL

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So back to my original point that a unit would have been no better in this collision?
Hard to say for a layman, as there's so many factors at play. The way in which the coaches are coupled (buffer and screw) will certainly have been looked into, a different coupling type may have made a difference here. A design with articulated bogies could have possibly kept everything upright.

Or it might not. With the Eckwersheim crash, where a TGV under test derailed after an overspeed through a curve, the coaches ended up all over the place despite the articulated design which was previously praised for its safety features.
 

SHD

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Hard to say for a layman, as there's so many factors at play. The way in which the coaches are coupled (buffer and screw) will certainly have been looked into, a different coupling type may have made a difference here. A design with articulated bogies could have possibly kept everything upright.

Or it might not. With the Eckwersheim crash, where a TGV under test derailed after an overspeed through a curve, the coaches ended up all over the place despite the articulated design which was previously praised for its safety features.

Conversely, in March 2020 a TGV derailed (not very far from Eckwersheim) almost at full speed after it hit a landslide and stayed remarkably upright. While the driver suffered significant injuries, no passenger did.

As you and several other posters said, there are many factors at play and no level of understanding of engineering and physics, however considerable, is enough to draw conclusions at such an early styage.

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A couple of points:

a. this train appears not to have collided with anything. It appears to have overturned and derailed. It will have hit at least one OHLE mast whilst doing so, but this is the only aspect where crashworthiness may have played role here? Much more significant, is likely to be the risk of windows breaking or falling out (as per Croydon) and standards here may need to be revisited post the investigation because of the high reported fatalities from what seems to have a relatively low speed derailment?
b. The overspeed at the Eckwersheim was huge (90kph, says Wikipedia) on a very tight curve by TGV standards, so way outside the range where articulation potentially is helpful. Articulation helps guide carriages around curves, including situations where the one in front is derailing, making it more likely it will stay upright. DB has never favoured it, presumably because the carriage mass tend to be quite high and they therefore need four axles per carriage to keep axle-loading to acceptable levels.
 

YorkshireBear

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If something came the other way there, that doesn't bear thinking about...
Conversely, in March 2020 a TGV derailed (not very far from Eckwersheim) almost at full speed after it hit a landslide and stayed remarkably upright. While the driver suffered significant injuries, no passenger did.

As you and several other posters said, there are many factors at play and no level of understanding of engineering and physics, however considerable, is enough to draw conclusions at such an early styage.

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Beebman

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Update report this evening on Bavarian TV:


As I understand it, investigations are centering on cracked concrete sleepers which may have caused the rails to go out of gauge. A number of other sites in southern Bavaria have been indentified with possible similar issues and temporary speed restrictions have been imposed at them. Meanwhile the railway at the scene of the accident remains closed while investigations continue.
 

TRAX

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Conversely, in March 2020 a TGV derailed (not very far from Eckwersheim) almost at full speed after it hit a landslide and stayed remarkably upright. While the driver suffered significant injuries, no passenger did.

As you and several other posters said, there are many factors at play and no level of understanding of engineering and physics, however considerable, is enough to draw conclusions at such an early styage.

View attachment 115889View attachment 115890
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This would be mostly thanks to the articulated design.
 

AndrewE

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Update report this evening on Bavarian TV:

As I understand it, investigations are centering on cracked concrete sleepers which may have caused the rails to go out of gauge. A number of other sites in southern Bavaria have been indentified with possible similar issues and temporary speed restrictions have been imposed at them. Meanwhile the railway at the scene of the accident remains closed while investigations continue.
I am amazed at this. I thought that the tensioned steel wires in sleepers held the concrete (absolutely solid) in compression and the alkalinity of the concrete prevented corrosion of the steel. I can understand surface cracking allowing moisture and air in to reach steel reinforcing in upright things like pillars and bridge abutments, rust following on and the concrete spalling, but for all the steel in concrete sleepers to waste away to the point that the gauge spreads? Come on...
 

najaB

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I am amazed at this. I thought that the tensioned steel wires in sleepers held the concrete (absolutely solid) in compression and the alkalinity of the concrete prevented corrosion of the steel. I can understand surface cracking allowing moisture and air in to reach steel reinforcing in upright things like pillars and bridge abutments, rust following on and the concrete spalling, but for all the steel in concrete sleepers to waste away to the point that the gauge spreads? Come on...
Which points to a manufacturing defect. The crack may not have been across the body of the sleeper but rather the bolt holes on one or the other side.
 

30907

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I am amazed at this. I thought that the tensioned steel wires in sleepers held the concrete (absolutely solid) in compression and the alkalinity of the concrete prevented corrosion of the steel. I can understand surface cracking allowing moisture and air in to reach steel reinforcing in upright things like pillars and bridge abutments, rust following on and the concrete spalling, but for all the steel in concrete sleepers to waste away to the point that the gauge spreads? Come on...
There have been widespread concerns in Germany about concrete sleepers of a particular vintage and provenance (I don't recall the detail) which have led to large sections of main lines being closed for relaying in the last few years.

While your technical explanation may be right and the concern is misplaced here, it is understandable that the matter is being investigated.
 
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?? The steel wires are not tensioned. They are there to provide the ability to tension either the top or the bottom half of the sleeper when the other half is in compression as axles pass over them.. If exposed to enough rain or other weak acids, the reinforcement will eventually rust but it is very,very rare that it loses structural integrity. More likely from what's being reported is that the concrete itself was substandard and decayed too quickly from rain and repeated compression. Something similar is reported to be a contributor to the major apartment buildling collapse in Miami last year: cheaper materials were substituted whilst the building was being constructed and no-one noticed.....??
 

AndrewE

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?? The steel wires are not tensioned. They are there to provide the ability to tension either the top or the bottom half of the sleeper when the other half is in compression as axles pass over them.. If exposed to enough rain or other weak acids, the reinforcement will eventually rust but it is very,very rare that it loses structural integrity. More likely from what's being reported is that the concrete itself was substandard and decayed too quickly from rain and repeated compression. Something similar is reported to be a contributor to the major apartment buildling collapse in Miami last year: cheaper materials were substituted whilst the building was being constructed and no-one noticed.....??
These people certainly think the wires need to be tensioned (i.e. pre-stressed)
Youtube video "Casting of Prestress Railway Sleeper"
To take a look over the casting of sleepers And processes involved in it. Cutting, placing, anchoring, tensioning by hydraulic jack,[of wires] concreting, steam curing, remoulding, curing, etc. Making of Railway sleepers Casting of Prestress sleeper prestress concrete.
and https://www.globalrailwayreview.com/article/2412/prestressed-concrete-sleepers/
says
Design of prestressed concrete sleepers
The basis for design work for prestressed-concrete sleepers in Europe is EN 13230, valid since October 2002: “Concrete sleepers and bearers.” A supplement to this standard is UIC 713: “Design of Monoblock Concrete Sleepers,” which provides a design example for a prestressed-concrete sleeper.
https://www.railway-technology.com/analysis/feature92105/ has
Concrete sleepers are generally made from cast concrete slabs reinforced internally by steel wire. Early prototypes made with conventional reinforced concrete were often found too brittle to withstand high levels of dynamic load. Modern concrete sleepers are primarily manufactured using pre-stressed concrete – a technique where internal tension is introduced to the sleeper (usually to the high-tensile steel wire skeleton) before it is cast to counteract the external pressure the blocks undergo during service.
so I think they are.
 

AndrewE

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It has come back to me now... The tensioning has to be such that, at any bit of the sleeper "beam" which might be in tension under load, the concrete itself is still kept in compression by the pre-casting tension in the wires.
I think the BR man who explained it to me may have known or worked with the people who worked that out. However he found it out, it was a little technical treasure he wanted to share with me!
 

edwin_m

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It has come back to me now... The tensioning has to be such that, at any bit of the sleeper "beam" which might be in tension under load, the concrete itself is still kept in compression by the pre-casting tension in the wires.
I think the BR man who explained it to me may have known or worked with the people who worked that out. However he found it out, it was a little technical treasure he wanted to share with me!
That's my understanding too.

I believe it's also possible for pre-tensioned structures to deteriorate in a way that isn't obvious by inspection, until they suddenly fail completely. Not sure if this is the reinforcement rusting through or something else.
 

KeithMcC

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Concrete sleepers are prestressed so that the concrete is always in compression under any design loading. This is to stop fatigue, which develops if a stress varies from +ve to -ve repeatedly. If the stress is always compressive then cracks don't develop.
Sudden failure is usually due to corrosion of the wires as they aren't big enough to develop a lot of expansive rust like a reinforcing bar - this blows the concrete off and exposes the corroded element. In this case I would suspect the problem is with the rail fixings rather than the sleeper itself, but I don't have any knowledge.
 

najaB

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In this case I would suspect the problem is with the rail fixings rather than the sleeper itself, but I don't have any knowledge.
That's my thinking as well - it doesn't take the whole sleeper to fail for the rail to be out of gauge.
 

dm1

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For any German speakers, this report makes for fairly grim listening


The gist is that the asset managers are responsible and personally liable for up to 400km of track each, but have nowhere near enough funding to perform even the minimum inspections and maintenance required. According to one such manager, they have "not just one, but one and a half feet in a jail cell". The author of an internal DB report stating that under those conditions personal liability for the asset managers was unreasonable/unacceptable (the German word is 'unzumutbar' which has a fairly specific legal meaning) was fired, as was one of the asset managers who authored a letter warning of serious problems.

The line at Garnisch was known to be in a very poor state by train drivers (they got access to WhatsApp messages between drivers just after the accident).

For me that sets of pretty loud alarm bells off in relation to what Network Rail is planning with their staffing cuts. Given the UK railway network isn't in the best state either (partly due to maintenance backlogs, partly just because it's so old), could we end up in a similar situation down the line if the planned cuts go ahead?
 

najaB

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For me that sets of pretty loud alarm bells off in relation to what Network Rail is planning with their staffing cuts. Given the UK railway network isn't in the best state either (partly due to maintenance backlogs, partly just because it's so old), could we end up in a similar situation down the line if the planned cuts go ahead?
Does "Railtrack" ring any bells? In short, we have been there. Hopefully we aren't going there again.
 

AlexNL

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Given the UK railway network isn't in the best state either (partly due to maintenance backlogs, partly just because it's so old), could we end up in a similar situation down the line if the planned cuts go ahead?
The cuts at Network Rail, even where it involves maintenance staff, do not automatically have to mean a degradation in network safety. But it's something to be vigilant over.


In fairly recent history, the UK has had several severe accidents caused by inadequate maintenance (Potters Bar, Hatfield, Grayrigg). This should still be in the corporate and political memory of the people who are responsible for the railways and if not, they should be reminded of it urgently. The 2013 crash at Brétigny-sur-Orge (France) and now the accident in Germany should further serve as reminders that maintenance is not something which can be skimped on.
 

Cloud Strife

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The gist is that the asset managers are responsible and personally liable for up to 400km of track each, but have nowhere near enough funding to perform even the minimum inspections and maintenance required. According to one such manager, they have "not just one, but one and a half feet in a jail cell". The author of an internal DB report stating that under those conditions personal liability for the asset managers was unreasonable/unacceptable (the German word is 'unzumutbar' which has a fairly specific legal meaning) was fired, as was one of the asset managers who authored a letter warning of serious problems.

The line at Garnisch was known to be in a very poor state by train drivers (they got access to WhatsApp messages between drivers just after the accident).

There is something in common with the autobahn network here. Germany has been adopting a policy since reunification of not spending money on maintenance, and we're seeing the effects in many areas of the autobahn network. German infrastructure, in a nutshell, is falling to pieces. It doesn't surprise me that it's also happening on the railways, because this is part of a very deliberate policy by successive German governments to maintain a healthy budget at the expense of infrastructure.

It wouldn't surprise me if a significant part of the German railway network was in a similar state.
 

Goldfish62

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There is something in common with the autobahn network here. Germany has been adopting a policy since reunification of not spending money on maintenance, and we're seeing the effects in many areas of the autobahn network. German infrastructure, in a nutshell, is falling to pieces. It doesn't surprise me that it's also happening on the railways, because this is part of a very deliberate policy by successive German governments to maintain a healthy budget at the expense of infrastructure.

It wouldn't surprise me if a significant part of the German railway network was in a similar state.
There's been concern voiced for years about the state of the German railway infrastructure.

It sounds like it's in a far, far worse state than anything in this country
 

YorkshireBear

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For any German speakers, this report makes for fairly grim listening


The gist is that the asset managers are responsible and personally liable for up to 400km of track each, but have nowhere near enough funding to perform even the minimum inspections and maintenance required. According to one such manager, they have "not just one, but one and a half feet in a jail cell". The author of an internal DB report stating that under those conditions personal liability for the asset managers was unreasonable/unacceptable (the German word is 'unzumutbar' which has a fairly specific legal meaning) was fired, as was one of the asset managers who authored a letter warning of serious problems.

The line at Garnisch was known to be in a very poor state by train drivers (they got access to WhatsApp messages between drivers just after the accident).

For me that sets of pretty loud alarm bells off in relation to what Network Rail is planning with their staffing cuts. Given the UK railway network isn't in the best state either (partly due to maintenance backlogs, partly just because it's so old), could we end up in a similar situation down the line if the planned cuts go ahead?
I would be very interested to know what press attention this is getting over there. I suspect none, as it would in this country.

There's been concern voiced for years about the state of the German railway infrastructure.

It sounds like it's in a far, far worse state than anything in this country
It's not a new voice, I've heard it in my limited dealings with native Germans for the last decade at least! Definitely agree with you there.
 

AlexNL

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There is something in common with the autobahn network here. Germany has been adopting a policy since reunification of not spending money on maintenance, and we're seeing the effects in many areas of the autobahn network. German infrastructure, in a nutshell, is falling to pieces. It doesn't surprise me that it's also happening on the railways, because this is part of a very deliberate policy by successive German governments to maintain a healthy budget at the expense of infrastructure.

It wouldn't surprise me if a significant part of the German railway network was in a similar state.

There's been concern voiced for years about the state of the German railway infrastructure.

It sounds like it's in a far, far worse state than anything in this country

The Dutch website Wegenwiki ("Wikipedia for roads") has a lengthy section about the problems facing Germany's motorway network. It's in Dutch, but a translator should work.

Original: Duitsland - Problemen in de Duitse wegenbouw - Wegenwiki
Google Translate: Germany - Problems in German road construction - Road Wiki (www-wegenwiki-nl.translate.goog)

There's similar stories to be found about Germany's railway network. There's a long standing lack of investment, which affects day-to-day maintenance as well as improvement projects. At the same time, DB are lagging behind when it comes to modernisation - which affects their bottom line.

Network Rail own and operate about 20000 miles (32187 km) of track. Traffic control is done by about 5500 signallers working from around 800 boxes, varying from small mechanical boxes on branch lines to big ROCs like Three Bridges and York.

DB Netz own and operate about 33400 km of track. This is roughly comparable with Network Rail. However, DB Netz employ around 13000 signallers who work from 2742 boxes (as of 2019).

Of these boxes, 26% are full manual lever frames and 11% are their power-operated equivalents - requiring "eyes on the ground" to oversee train movements and track occupation. 22% of all train movements on DB Netz operated tracks are controlled this way... a baffling amount for the 21st century.
 

Cloud Strife

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There's been concern voiced for years about the state of the German railway infrastructure.

It sounds like it's in a far, far worse state than anything in this country

One thing that I've noticed is that there's a strange tendency in Germany to renovate/demolish things that don't really need to be touched, while ignoring more pressing issues. A good example is in Zittau, where a large and expensive renovation of the platforms and signalling took place. It was really not clear to me why they spent so much money on this (around 45m EUR) for such little traffic, especially given that there's absolutely no sign of any agreement with the Polish PKP regarding the transit route to Liberec.

Yes, modernisation was nice there, but was it really needed?

This is exactly why it doesn't surprise me that this was a maintenance issue. Germany has really severe problems with maintaining public infrastructure, and as others have said, there have to be serious concerns that the rest of the railway network is in a similarly catastrophic state.
 

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