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Saint-Herblain english summary

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publié le 16 février 2011

On 4 June 2007, on the Nantes tramline No. 1 at Saint-Herblain, a collision between a tram and a private car caused the death of the female passenger of the car.
The accident occurred at about 12:15 p.m.
A tram, which had just left the "Schoelcher" station, in Saint-Herblain, near Nantes, collided with a car, drove on to the Vasco de Gama roundabout. The motorist, who was looking for his way, drove on to the roundabout without noticing the tram or the signals protecting its passage.
The tram collided with the right hand (passenger) side of the car and pushed it for some forty metres, before violently colliding with an overhead contact line mast against which the car was crushed.

The direct cause of the accident lies in the driver of the car’s poor observation and failure to respect road signs.
The delay in applying the emergency brakes of the tram was a factor that aggravated the accident and was decisive in the violence of the second impact against the mast.
The layout of the roundabout, in order to integrate the tram platform, does not guarantee optimum safety :
- the presence of a fixed obstacle (the mast, supporting the overhead contact line) a few dozen centimetres of the "obstacle limit clearance" and in the immediate vicinity of the edge of the roundabout was an aggravating factor ;
- the absence of pre-signalling on entering the roundabout could have affected the driver’s perception of the urban environment and its constraints.

Other factors, associated with the design of the rolling stock (old, non-optimised design of the front of the tram in the event of an impact, absence of a powerful audible warning) or the understanding of the signals (ambiguity of the flashing red light which was clearly not interpreted correctly), may also have contributed to the accident.
Finally, it would have been easier to analyse the accident had a more advanced video and recording system been on board the tram.

During this investigation, it appeared that the safety of the roundabouts crossed by trams raises complex, specific issues which must be handled with care. In particular, their legibility is an important safety factor, particularly for visiting road users or those not used to the location.

The recommendations therefore call for the following :
- the implementation, on the Nantes tramway, of a programme to modify the location of overhead contact line support masts on the roundabouts giving the most cause for concern ;
- the completion of the programme to improve the safety of roundabouts in Nantes as part of the long term development plan adopted by "Nantes Métropole" ;
- better informing users as to the mandatory nature of a flashing red light ;
- pursuing the experimentation and optimisation of blocking signals and those at the entrance of roundabouts to promote those with the best guarantees for safety and the optimisation of traffic ;
- studying developments to Nantes rolling stock, likely to improve safety (audible warning in particular) ;
- improving recording systems by fitting trams with video cameras directed towards the front, covering the space to be crossed, and by increasing the parametric content of recorders, in accordance with the list recommended by the STRMTG.