A train collision earlier this month that injured some 40 people was immediately blamed on a signal failure, but until now no one knew why the traffic control device quit working near the town of Denguin.
As outlandish as it sounds it appears rats chewed through some cables on the signal which led to it staying green, when it should have been red, as a TER train carrying 60 people blasted through a junction at 120 km/h, according to results released by France’s state-owned rail company SNCF.
Moments later the TER slammed into a high-speed TGV train that had 178 aboard as it travelled to Paris. Miraculously only three people, of the 40 injured, were seriously hurt. No one was killed.
But it doesn’t appear this was totally a freak accident. The rodents that chewed through the cable could have been kept out of the site, which was undergoing some work at the time of the crash, France Info reported.
Also the signal had last been inspected in June 2013 and that type of SNCF equipment is supposed to be checked at least once a year. SNCF, however, noted the annual inspections can legally be delayed by up to 90 days.
France’s rail system has come under fire in recent months after the deadly derailment in the Paris suburbs last year that killed seven people. A report released on the anniversary of the disaster claimed the crash was just a question of time, given the poor state of the tracks.
In a report handed over to judges, the court-appointed rail engineers confirmed that the derailment was caused by a faulty fishplate - a joint bar that links two pieces of rail together.