Awkward track repair lies beneath derailment

Milan - There is a problem with the story of the train that derailed at Pioltello, killing three and injuring 100, in which the line managers swear that everything was as it should have been: there was a wooden wedge under the broken rail

Milan - There is a problem with the story of the train that derailed at Pioltello, killing three and injuring 100, in which the line managers swear that everything was as it should have been: there was a wooden wedge under the broken rail. It was not necessarily a matter of bad luck. This can clearly be seen in one of the many photos that were taken on Thursday during the police and expert inspections of the railways. Two images in particular speak volumes because they are taken from different angles than those published in all the newspapers.

In one you can clearly see a piece of wood, not too new, in fact one could say looking rather old, placed directly under the joint in the track that broke, causing the derailment of the train at 140 kilometres per hour.

The piece of wood, which was right next to a concrete sleeper, just beneath a broken metal plate that the jumped track rests on, would have been put there to compensate for the probable subsidence of the underlying ground, to re-level the track and prevent it from breaking, which is what ended up happening. A temporary solution, most likely, but it would now be nice to know who did it, who ordered it, and who approved it.

Because according to the railway technicians, who are now quite terrified and have been absolutely forbidden to talk (to journalists), usually when it is ascertained that the ground has collapsed under a track, which is not entirely infrequent, the first thing to do is to remove the track, shore up the ground, and then replace the track, which means bolting it back onto the sleepers. This work is necessary to prevent it from breaking, which could cause an accident.

Now… how is it possible that on one of the busiest lines in Italy, after having noticed that the ground at that point was probably giving way, somebody decided to fix the problem with a wooden wedge, even temporarily? According to Umberto Lebruto, RFI’s production manager, “no work was in progress”. And he upped the ante: “That track was changed five or six years ago, normally tracks are changed every twenty years.” The prosecutor’s office will of course be responsible for verifying this.

But in the meantime, the mystery remains, what RFI (Rete Ferroviaria Italiana) chiefs have called the “touchiest and most inspected section of track in Italy”, in which millions and millions of euros have been invested, and which it seems, from the photo we have published. is being repaired with wooden wedges. Strange.

400 to 500 trains traverse the rail line between Cremona, Treviglio and Milan every day. It is a huge number of convoys, which obviously put immense pressure on the tracks. So much, that according to RFI’s statement yesterday, “inspections are carried out every fifteen days” by the diagnostic machine called “Diamante,” and it passed over the tracks where the accident occurred on 11 January without detecting any abnormality.

This is what RFI production manager, Umberto Lebruto, claims. Maurizio Gentile, the company’s CEO, adds: “Everything was as it should have been. In any case, we still do not know whether the joint that broke was the cause of the derailment, or its result: these parts are under tremendous strain”.

It is as if Trenord is in a hurry to point out that it is not necessarily the fault of the tracks, because although the train, which had old wagons (from the 1980s) - was still in order because they had passed the 5,000 km test - could have caused damage with its wheels.

In short, the two sides are blaming each other. The diagnostic train, Gentile explained, “did not detect anything anomalous. In this particular case, it should have recorded any irregularity in the train’s movement. A defective rail would be detected immediately”. Perhaps a rail would, but what about ground that is giving way? And how does one explain that the wooden wedge was supporting the track at the exact point where the rail broke? If the diagnostic machine really didn’t detect anything wrong, it might suggest that the subsidence of the ground and the placement of the wedge took place after 11 January. But the question is, who placed it there, and on whose orders? Provided of course that this was the reason that the rail broke. In the meantime, the Public Prosecutor’s Office has commissioned experts to advise the injured parties, which could include all 300 passengers on the train.