Concrete sleepers

Preliminary report on fatal German rail accident confirms suspicions around sleepers

Concrete sleepers near Rosktock.2018, Deutsche Bahn AG / Oliver Lang

Germany’s federal rail accident investigation unit BEU earlier on Thursday published its initial findings into the fatal derailment that happened on June 3 last year near the southern German town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen. The report finally confirms the long-held suspicion that defective concrete sleepers were the cause of the accident.

The derailment of a double-decker passenger train resulted in the death of 5 people. Another 16 were injured. German media quickly uncovered that the section where the accident happened was slated to undergo track replacement works later that month. In July 2022, DB then embarked on a precautionary inspection campaign of concrete sleepers similar to those used on the tracks near Garmisch-Partenkirchen. At the time, the company said it was not jumping to the conclusion that the sleepers were possibly at fault.

It was not until mid-August that independent testing institutes in Germany said that they had possibly uncovered a manufacturing error in the concrete sleepers identical- in terms of rock mixture – to the ones also used in the tracks near the site of the accident.

The inspection campaign was subsequently widened, and DB back said the resulting financial damage would end up in the hundreds of millions. This sum has probably increased since then. On Wednesday, DB said it would be replacing around 480,000 sleepers this year whereas typically some 80,000 sleepers are renewed each year.

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Author: Nick Augusteijn

Chief Editor,

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