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Mézel english summary

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publié le 26 août 2014

The Nice-Digne Line known as the Chemins de Fer de Provence is run by the Compagnie Ferroviaire du Sud de la France (CFSF). On Tuesday 24 June 2008 at about 12.09 passenger train n.3 running from Nice towards Digne, caught fire at KP 140.950 situated at Mézel (Alpes de Haute-Provence). The passenger train was made up of a cab car and a driving trailer.
The fire started in the engine which was at the rear of the train. A passenger worried by escaping smoke coming into the passenger car, pulled the emergency alarm which led the train to stop on the line.
The train crew evacuated the train which was mainly filled with a group of elderly people. Despite the efforts of the driver and the emergency services the fire spread to the whole of the engine. There were only two slight injuries The engine superstructure was destroyed.

The immediate probable cause seems to have been damage to the insulation of an electric cable providing the power to charge the battery in the underbody section ; this allowed the creation of an earth between the conductor and the metal floor. This then led to the covers on the cables overheating and then catching fire.

Two factors could have led to the fire starting :
- the absence of protection for underbody cables, especially in the vulnerable area where the cables pass into the underbody (electrical equipment box) which exposes the insulation to the risk of damage
- the cleaning with a high pressure hose of the underside of the underbody, in the area where the cables enter on their way to the electrical equipment box, and which was undertaken that morning, which, if it had not been done with care, might have concentrated flammable foreign bodies into the damaged cable.

An aggravating factor was the fact that the diesel engine remained running during the initial attempts to put out the fire, this meant that the generator continued feed current to the battery charging circuit and this contributed to the failure of the attempts to put out the fire.

The report made six recommendations.
Three recommendations concerned the rolling stock. They concerned enforcing standards dealing with electric cabling, its protection and the checking of its insulation.
The tree other recommendations concerned the organisation of emergency services and the radio link