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Gotthard Base Tunnel Derailment: A Closer Look at the Faulty Wheel

Gotthard Base Tunnel Derailment: A Closer Look at the Faulty Wheel
photo: Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board (STSB)/Gotthard Base Tunnel Derailment: A Closer Look at the Faulty Wheel
02 / 10 / 2023

A derailment in the Gotthard Base Tunnel last August was triggered by a defective wheel, according to the Swiss Transportation Safety Investigation Board (STSB). Upon closer examination, the wheel, identified as a BA 390 type and manufactured in 2008, had been operating for 140,000 kilometres since its last servicing. The wagon, owned by Transwaggon AB, a Swedish subsidiary of the Transwaggon Group, bore a faulty wheel that had developed a crack over several months. This eventually led to a significant fracture during its journey, operated by SBB Cargo, causing widespread damage, especially at the Faido interchange.

The SUST's investigation ruled out any pre-existing operational issues as the cause of the derailment. Instead, the focus has shifted to the systemic issue of potentially faulty wheelsets. The report has urged for the inclusion of Type 390 wheels within the oversight of the Joint Network Secretariat (JNS) Broken Wheels. Established by the European Union in 2017, the JNS was formed to monitor and address issues related to wheel failures. If the recommendation is implemented, it will mean rigorous checks and potentially a list of all such wheels currently in use across Europe. It is crucial given the challenge of estimating how many of these wheels are operational.

This derailment's aftermath has sparked a proactive response. As a precaution, the Swiss Federal Office of Transport intends to notify approximately 125 companies that use these types of wheelsets. The goal is to ensure that companies inspect and, if necessary, replace any such wheels to prevent similar incidents in the future. The Gotthard incident serves as a stark reminder of the importance of regular and thorough equipment checks in ensuring rail safety.