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The BBC's John Sopel
"This is the first time a Eurostar train has been involved in an incident like this"
 real 28k

The BBC's James Coomerasamy in Paris
"The passenger carriages were not affected"
 real 28k

Monday, 5 June, 2000, 23:41 GMT 00:41 UK
Eurostar train derails in France
Passengers leave derailed train
Local police said sabotage was unlikely to be the cause
A high-speed Eurostar train travelling from Paris to London has partially derailed near the town of Arras in northern France but no one has been seriously hurt.

The train was travelling at 300kph (200 mph) with 501 passengers on board when the first car left the track outside Arras, near Lille, about half-an-hour from the Channel Tunnel.

The train came to a halt on the track bed but none of the carriages flipped over.

Girl being helped off train
Experts say the TGV's good design prevented a disaster

Other high-speed TGV trains have remained upright in similar accidents in the past.

Sabotage unlikely

A spokesman for the local Gendarmerie said there "does not appear to be any indication of sabotage and we are treating it as a mechanical accident".

It happened a day after a man admitted derailing a train in central France, leaving two people dead and 13 injured.

I think we need a pan-European approach here

MEP Mark Watts

Observers say the TGV's low centre of gravity and construction, which links cars by shared wheel carriages, makes such trains more stable than traditional rolling stock.

The accident occurred at 1754 local time (1554 GMT) and several people were taken to hospital suffering shock, the Gendarmerie said.

The French railway company, SNCF, said in a statement that it had no information on the cause of the accident, but a crash investigation has been launched.

It said the Eurostar service had been interrupted and its trains were being redirected away from their normal route.

Heavily travelled line

The heavily travelled line is also used by high-speed trains linking Paris to Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne.

The passengers were bussed to Lille to continue their journey to London.

Mark Watts, Labour transport spokesman in the European Parliament, called for a European body to be set up to investigate rail accidents following the TGV derailment.

"There must be a public inquiry into this, but at the moment countries investigate accidents in their own territory.

"Eurostar works in three countries, however, and I think we need a pan-European approach here."

A rail safety expert, Peter Rayner, said the passengers had had "a very lucky escape".

"This demonstrates how good the engineering of the rolling stock and the tracks used for Eurostar is. They are designed to stay upright and safe even if they are derailed at speeds like this."

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