Collision of two freight trains – important railway line closed
A freight train drives into a stationary train, explosive propane gas escapes: according to the fire department, people in the Gifhorn area do not have to fear any danger. But the accident hit rail traffic hard.
Delays, train cancellations and probably days of train chaos: A collision between two freight trains in Lower Saxony has massively disrupted rail traffic on the busy route between North Rhine-Westphalia and Berlin. Explosive propane gas escaped from two overturned tank wagons, several 100 meters of overhead lines were torn down.
The important railway line with numerous ICE and IC connections was closed after the accident on Thursday in the Gifhorn district. According to the Federal Police, this could remain the case for a few days.
“According to initial assessments, rail traffic will not roll in the next few days,” said a police spokesman. The trains would have to be salvaged, the overhead line repaired – and it is still unclear whether the rails and the subsoil are affected. The officials set up barriers within a kilometer of the accident site near Leiferde near Gifhorn, not far from Wolfsburg. However, there is no danger to the population because of the escaping gas, said a fire department spokesman. The scene of the accident is “far away from the nearest buildings” and the wind also distributes the gas.
Cause of accident still unclear
According to the federal police, the freight trains of two private railway companies collided in the morning. One of the trains stopped at a signal, the second freight train made up of 25 tank wagons filled with propane gas drove up – why is still unclear. Four tank wagons overturned and gas escaped from two wagons. The locomotive was also lifted off the tracks and severely damaged. The 45-year-old driver of the train was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Accident investigators secured papers from the locomotive.
Pictures showed the wagons lying on their sides in a wooded area. According to the federal police, the electricity had to be turned off and the tracks blocked in both directions.
Rail traffic massively disrupted
This had far-reaching consequences for rail traffic: ICE trains on the important route from North Rhine-Westphalia via Hanover to Berlin and in the opposite direction were diverted and delayed by around 60 minutes. There was no stop in Wolfsburg, instead the trains stopped in Stendal. The railway pointed out the expected higher utilization in the trains that were still running.
According to Deutsche Bahn, ICE connections from Switzerland via Frankfurt and Kassel to Berlin were diverted; the stops in Wolfsburg, Göttingen and Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe were dropped. The IC trains from Dresden via Hanover and Bremen to Norddeich Mole did not run between Hanover and East Germany, IC connections between Cologne via Hanover and Magdeburg to Dresden were dropped between Cologne and Braunschweig. The IC trains from Amsterdam to Berlin started and ended in Hanover.
The other IC and ICE trains in the section were initially canceled. A railway spokeswoman said it was still unclear when the route would be released. “We cannot make a forecast.”
Regional traffic was also affected by the closure between Wolfsburg and Lehrte – it was about the Enno line RE30 from Hanover via Gifhorn to Wolfsburg. Trains commuted on the section between Hanover and Meinersen, as well as on the section between Wolfsburg and Gifhorn, the company said. A rail replacement service between Gifhorn and Meinersen has been set up.
Experts from the Federal Office for Railway Accident Investigation were expected at the scene of the accident, as well as experts from the Marl Chemical Park plant fire brigade. The factory fire brigade specializes in such accidents and also has the necessary equipment, said a fire brigade spokesman. The volunteer fire brigade is not trained for large chemical and rail accidents, he explained.