Major works at Simplon Tunnel after fire

Dozens of railway employees helped making the simplon tunnel re-accessible for trains after a fire on Thursday, 9 June 2011.

The fire broke out around six o’clock in the morning in the sixth wagon of a train carrying household goods made of steel and porcelain from Italy to Germany. No-one was hurt, apart from a few people who suffered minor smoke inhalation. The flames eventually spread to the following nine wagons because of the immense heat inside the tunnel. By Thursday evening firemen on board of special fire-fighting trains were able to bring the fire under control. However, the tunnel’s parallel tube which is linked by transverse tunnels every 200 metres, was also unusable due to smoke and caused the Simplon tunnel to be completely closed. The fire-fighting operations were completed by Sunday and parts of the tunnel were passable the same evening again.

The backlog of freight transportation could be caught up fast, however, passenger traffic from Geneva and Bern to Milan was interrupted until 20 June. Traffic between Brig and Domodossola was conducted by alternative trains every hour.

The engine and burned-out wagons of the freight train were moved to the Swiss exit of the tunnel at Brig. They are all being dismantled, as rails and sleepers, but also the wagons were completely destroyed in the fire reaching temperatures of 800 ° C. The damage to the infrastructure is severe. Cleanup and repair work will continue for weeks as the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) reports. The infrastructure shall be recovered as fast as possible to minimize negative effects on customers.

The cause of the fire is still unknown and is being investigated.


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