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Driver killed in Swiss train crash ‘was French’

The train driver who was killed after a head-on collision between two trains in Switzerland on Monday was a 24-year-old French national, according to media reports on Tuesday.

Driver killed in Swiss train crash 'was French'
An investigation is underway into the cause of the crash. Photo: AFP

The driver who has not yet been named, was a resident in Payerne, in the western Swiss canton of Vaud, a spokesman from the local police said. The man's family are now receiving counselling. 

The driver was killed and 26 others injured after a head-on collision at 18:45 on Monday evening just outside the station at Granges-pres-Marnard between the Geneva and Neuchatel lakes in the French-speaking region. 

At a news conference on Tuesday morning reported by the Blick newspaper the railway operator SBB and canton of Vaud police gave more details of the collision and its aftermath.

Police spokesman Jean-Christophe Sauterel said the assumption was that one of the trains had left the station too early, ignoring signals.

It could not be ruled out that there were further passengers trapped in the wreckage, Sauterel said.

SBB chief executive Andreas Meyer said the federal railway company was shaken by the accident.

“We will continue to do all we can to ensure the safety of our passengers,” he said, according to Blick.

Meyer said he was relieved that many of the injured had been able to leave hospital during the morning.

Rescuers retrieved the body of the driver from one of the crumpled engines early on Tuesday and investigators were surveying the crash site.

"Work is continuing to clear the line completely. Technical investigations will continue over coming days," police said in a statement.

A total of 46 passengers had been on board, all of them Swiss, police said.

One train had been bound for Lausanne, 38 kilometres to the south, while the other was travelling north from the same city.

In total, 26 people were taken to five separate hospitals while those with more minor injuries were treated on site by the emergency services and volunteer medics.

Monday's crash was Switzerland's most serious since one in Zurich in 2003 which injured 45 people.

It came in the wake of the July 24th tragedy in Santiago de Compostela, when a speeding train flew off the rails, killing 79 people. A crash in the Paris suburb of Brétigny-sur-Orge a week earlier killed seven.

Two regional trains collided at Neuhausen-am-Rheinfall in northern Switzerland in January, resulting in 25 people suffering slight injuries.

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TRAIN

9 things you might not know about the TGV as France’s high-speed train turns 40

France's high speed intercity train is celebrating its 40th birthday, so here are some more unusual facts about the much-loved TGV.

9 things you might not know about the TGV as France's high-speed train turns 40
Photo: Loic Venance/AFP

In 1981, President François Mitterrand officially inaugurated the first high-speed rail line connecting Paris and Lyon. A few days later, a bright orange TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse, French for “high-speed train”) raced down the tracks at over 200km/h.

In celebration of the TGVs landmark birthday, Emmanuel Macron and Jean-Pierre Farandou – President of the SNCF, France’s national railway company – were on Friday at the Gare de Lyon in Paris to unveil the ‘TGV of the future’.

In front of a full-scale model of the new TGV M, Macron hailed a prime example of “French genius” and promised to unlock €6.5 billion to develop the TGV network, including new lines serving cities such as Nice and Toulouse.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know about taking the train in France

Emmanuel Macron (right) delivers a speech next to a life-size replica of the next TGV high-speed train at Photo by Michel Euler / POOL / AFP

“We’re going to continue this grand adventure with new industrial commitments,” since more people are looking beyond metropoles to smaller cities – an apparent allusion to post-Covid prospects.

“We see clearly that life and work are going to be restructured, and that our fellow citizens today want to organise their time for living and time for working differently,” he said.

The streamlined version of the bullet train promises to carry more passengers – up to 740 passengers from 600 – while using 20 percent less electricity.

It will continue to whiz people between cities at a top speed of 320 km/h, making most door-to-door trips shorter and cheaper than on airplanes.

To celebrate the birthday of the TGV (which in French is pronounce tay-shay-vay) blowing out its 40 candles, here are a few fun facts about the super-speedy trains.

Patrick  – That’s the name of the first TGV. Built in 1978 and set into action in 1981 on the Paris-Lyon line, the bright orange Patrick travelled some 13.5 million kilometres before taking his well-earned retirement last year.

574.8 km/h – That’s the world rail speed record, held by the Alstom V150 TGV. Although Japan’s superconductor-powered Maglev (magnetic levitation) trains travel faster – with a record of 603 km/h – they technically don’t run on rails.

3 – That’s how many times the TGV has set the world rail speed record: in 1981 (380 km/h), 1990 (515.3 km/h) and 2007 (574.8 km/h). 

2,734 km – That’s the total length of France’s high-speed rail network, with even more lines set to be constructed in the future. This means France has the fourth-longest high-speed rail network in the world, behind China, Spain, and Japan. 

0 – That’s how many passengers sit aboard the IRIS 320, which travels some 1,500 km every day. Laden with cameras and scanners, this 200-metre-long TGV rapidly inspects the state of the TGV’s train lines in order to ensure travellers’ safety and security.

€7 – That’s how much it costs to take a small pet – including a snail – on the TGV. Animals, even tiny ones, need their own tickets. In 2008 a TGV passenger fined for carrying live snails in his luggage without a ticket for his animals, although the fine was later waived after the story received national attention.

240 That’s the number of stations served by the TGV network. 183 of these stations can be found in France. The others are located in Germany, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. 

3 billion – That’s how many travellers the TGV had hoped to reach by the end of 2021. The pandemic may have derailed their plans slightly, but the service is still looking strong. The network served it’s 2 billionth passenger in 2012, just over 30 years after its launch.

1947 – the last year without a single recorded strike on the rail network in France. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that pre-1947 was a golden age of industrial relations – just that SNCF’s records are incomplete before then.

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