Table 1: Railroad and Metro Tunnel Accidents

Mr. Terje Andersen
Det Norske Veritas (DNV)
Veritasv. 1, N-1322 Høvik, Norway
E-mail:
terje.andersen@dnv.com

Mr. Børre J. Paaske
Det Norske Veritas (DNV)
Ingvald Ystgaardsvei 15, 7496 Trondheim, Norway
E-mail:
Borre.Johan.Paaske@dnv.com

Date:
Location:
Accident
category:
Tunnel length:
Concept:
Fatalities/
Injured:
Comments/descriptions:
2001
July 18th

Howard
Street,
Baltimore

USA

Derailment

Fire

2.5 km

Single bore
single track
line buried
under city
centre streets

0 / 0 A freight train with 60 cars, of which 8 cars were carrying dangerous goods, caught fire probably as a result of a derailment inside a tunnel. The train was stopped in the tunnel and the train staff disconnected the locomotives and managed to escape the fire. The cars containing dangerous goods were in the rear half of the train.
The tunnel is situated inside the city of Baltimore, and a huge quantity of smoke poured out of the tunnel at various access points. Fire hoses were brought into the tunnel through manholes in the street above the tunnel.
2000
Nov 11th

Kitzsteinhorn

Austria

Fire 3.4 km
43o
inclination

Single bore
tunnel
for cable
conveyor

155 fatalities of
total 167
passengers
The cable car caught fire in the rear drivers cab at the bottom of the tunnel immediately after departure. Due to the fire the car came to a stop 0.6 km inside the 3.4 km long tunnel. The lights went out, and at first the doors were impossible to open. After a while they nevertheless managed to open some of the doors. The cross section of the tunnel is very narrow (diameter 3.6 m) and the space at the side of the car is very limited.
The great inclination (43o) made the tunnel a chimney in it self and the escape route downwards was blocked by the fire. People coming out of the train and trying to escape upwards the tunnel, were caught by the smoke and warm flue gases and died inside the tunnel. Only 12 of the passengers survived the cable conveyor fire. They managed to escape the train at an early stage by a broken window and evacuated downwards in the tunnel. 3 of the fatalities had been staying in the station building on top of the tunnel.
2000
Aug 30th

Notre Dame -
de-Lorette,
Paris,
France

Derailment and
overturning
Metro-
system
Line 12

Under-
ground
station

0 fatalities
24 injured
of which 10
seriously
A south going train on line 12 derailed and overturned in a narrow curve (radius 52m) at the entry to the station at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette. The first car skidded into the station overturned and stopped 1 m ahead of a train in opposite direction that was standing at the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette platform.
Too high speed in the curve ahead of the station was probably the cause of the accident.
1999
Aug 23rd

U-bahn
line 15,
Cologne

Germany

Collision;
front - rear
Metro-
system

Under-
ground
station

0 fatalities

67 injured
of which 7
seriously

The accident took place in the afternoon rush at 17:40 at the Christophstrasse MediaPark station. A train in traffic was halting at the station for passenger exchange when a test driving train suddenly ran into it from behind.
The test train was of a new type, "City-Sprinter", and for some reason it had lost its breaking abilities. The "City-Sprinter" brakes were of another type than what had been customary in Cologne so far. A representative from the supplier of the City Sprinter participated in the test-driving.
1999
May 29th
Minsk Metro;
Nyamiha station

White Russia

Crowding
together
Metro-
system

Under-
ground
station

52 fatalities
150+ injured
of total 2000 passengers
52 (54?) persons were killed when a crowd of 2000 people tried to squeeze themselves into a metro station in Minsk due to a heavy hailstorm. All the people came from a rock concert and beer festival when the hailstorm broke out, and the crowd of people sought shelter in the metro station. People slipping and falling on slippery floors increased the crowding. Among the fatalities were many youths and 2 policemen trying to control the crowd.
1999
May 23rd

Salerno,

Italy

Deliberately
started fire
in train
About
10 km
4 fatalities
9 injured of
total 1100 passengers
A fire was started in one car of a 13-car train carrying 1100 football supporters on their way back home from a match. The fire was most likely deliberately put on fire, and it was perhaps the result of a smoke bomb. The incident took place in a long tunnel, but there are no indications that the train stopped in the tunnel. Thus the tunnel may not be of essential significance to the outcome of the incident. This was the second football supporter train fire in Italy during a 2 week period.
1996
Nov 18th

Eurotunnel

UK - France

Fire 50 km

Twin bore
tunnel with
service tunnel.

Access to
service
tunnel
every
375 m

0 / ? One of the trucks on the train caught fire before the train entered the tunnel. The train was one of the Eurotunnel's lorry shuttles with the truck drivers in a separate car next to the locomotive. The train continued at normal speed ( 120 km/h) for about 10 minutes before it stopped beside an exit to the adjoining service tunnel. It was impossible to disconnect the burning part of the train. Due to the heavy fire, the power catenary was damaged relatively quickly once the train has stopped. The fire was at that moment very strong (max 100 MW) and it rapidly spread to cars nearby. Thick smoke forwarded quickly in the train due to other trains running in the current tube. This made the evacuation more difficult. Persons in the staff car and the truck drivers managed to evacuate through the neighbouring door leading to the parallel service tunnel. Overpressure from the service tunnel door created a "fresh-air bubble" when opened. Locomotive staff was at a later stage rescued by a rescue party from the adjoining service tunnel. Huge structural damages in the tunnel.
1995
Oct 28th

Baku Metro, Aserbadjan;
between
Uldus and
Narimanov
station

Fire due to
electrical
fault on train
Metro,
about 2.2 km
between
stations.

Twin bore
tunnel.
Possibly no
intervening
connections
between
the tubes

289 fatalities
265 injured

About 245 killed in
train,
40 in tunnel

Each tunnel bore has a relatively narrow cross-section (H=5,6m W=5m). The tunnel is equipped with a controllable ventilation system. A fully loaded 5 car metro train stopped about 200 m after Uldus station due to sparkover/ electric arc in electrical equipment in the rear end of the fourth car. The fire rapidly spread to car 5. Because of problems with the opening of doors in car 4, the passengers were forced to evacuate through car 3. Many travellers, narrow tunnel cross-section and the door problems lead to slow evacuation, and panic arose.
The ventilation was set on exhaust mode and much of the smoke was drawn in the same direction as the evacuation was going. 245 of the fatalities were afterwards found killed inside the train, most of them either squeezed or stamped to death and 40 of them were found in the tunnel. 95 % of the persons who managed to evacuate the train survived.
1994
Dec 20th

Summit
tunnel,

UK

Derailment
and fire in
freight train
carrying
gasoline
2.6 km

Double
tracked

0/0 An axle bearing on the front bogie in car 4 overheated, failed and made the train stop in the tunnel. This caused the subsequent cars to derail. Car 6 and 10 overturned and landed on the adjacent track. Gasoline started to leak from the cars. The incident took place early in the morning. Train crew went to examine the situation. When they reached car 3 they heard a muffled explosion and saw flames. They disconnected the first three cars and drove out of the tunnel to the nearest telephone (1500 m from the accident) before the accident was reported and other traffic was stopped.
The tunnel was built in 1841 and was furnished with 13 passive ventilation shafts (chimneys) 28 - 94 m tall. The chimneys were originally built to ventilate smoke from steam locomotives.
The fire brigade entered the tunnel and made fire-fighting attempts the first hours after the accident. This could be carried out without wearing smoke proof breathing equipment since the flue gas efficiently was extracted through the ventilation shafts. At 09:30 one of the cars burst and the fire increased heavily and the fire fighters had to retreat. The flue gases being extracted by the shafts closest to the fire, supported the retreat. After this moment the flames reached a height of 50 m above shaft 8 and 9. To gain control of the fire, water was pumped down shaft 10 (later shaft 9) and foam in shaft 7. At 3:00 the following night, the flames from shaft 8 decreased and at 10:30 there were made attempts to inspect the location of the accident. There were no visible flames, but the tunnel was very hot. Cooling of the tunnel proceeded until afternoon December 24th. The tunnel lining was damaged and the tunnel was kept closed for all kind of traffic for several months.
1991
Dec 7th

Severn
tunnel

UK

Collision; front - rear 6.8 km

Double
tracked,
underwater

0/100?
of total 291

passengers
This was the first sub sea railway tunnel, and it was first opened in 1886. The disastrous day, there was an error in the signalling system. Because of this error the operation was made by manual routines from the control centre with the help from local train dispatcher at the tunnel portals.
A HST (high speed train) entering the tunnel first, received driving permission for careful driving through the tunnel. The motor vehicle train driving behind the HST did not stop at the signal in front of the tunnel gateway, and proceeded through the tunnel at a considerable higher speed than the HST. The motor vehicle train caught up with the first train immediately before the western tunnel outlet, and was unable to stop in time. The last cars of the HST derailed and the coupling to the rest of the train broke and the brakes were activated. No persons were killed or seriously injured, but the rescue operation went on for a very long time.
1991
April 16th

Hirschen-
graben
tunnel

Zürich
Switzerland

Fire 1.3 km

Double
tracked
(A=70 m2)

0 / 0?

Of total 50 in train S9 and 90 in train S5
A fire was observed in the second last car of a 6-car local train, S9, as it left Zurich Hbf and drove into the Hirschengraben tunnel. The train stopped almost halfway through the tunnel, as someone activated the emergency brake. The tunnel has double tracks, and was rapidly filled with smoke. The escape routes leading to the tunnel portal were about 500-800m long. It took 2-3 minutes from the train stopped until evacuation was initiated. Before evacuation started the passengers were encouraged to stay in the train.
Nearly at the same time as train S9 stopped inside the tunnel, train S5 entered the tunnel in the opposite direction from Stadelhofen station. Train S5 was stopped before it reached the accident area. The train driver takes the other driver's room in use, and after 4 minutes starts to drive slowly back towards Stadelhofen. After 100m he stops the train to pick up evacuating passengers from train S9. After a while the power from the voltage conducting wire disappeared, and the train remained standing in the tunnel. All of the passengers were requested to evacuate the train and to leave the tunnel on foot.
The fire brigade and rescue personnel were present outside the tunnel gateway 10 minutes after the burning train had come to a stop. Their duty was first of all to advise and help the last of the evacuating persons. They were all able to walk, and nobody needed to be carried out. The last passenger came out of the tunnel about 20 minutes after the burning train had stopped.
1988
June 27th

Gare de Lyon,

Paris,
France

Brake failure,
collision
with stationary
train
Under ground track
at Gare de Lyon

Station

59 fatalities
32 injured
A passenger pulled the emergency brake on a delayed suburban train outside Gare de Lyon. While releasing the brakes, the driver of the train made a grave mistake, and the train continued but nearly without functional brakes. In the downward slope to the under ground part of the Gare de Lyon station the train ran away due to the brake failure, and at high speed it hit a train ready for departure.
Prior to the collision attempts were made to evacuate the stationary train, but there was not enough time. There were many people at the platform as well, and some of them were killed too.
1987
Nov 18th

King’s Cross Metro station

London, UK

Fire in
escalator
Metro-
system

Station

31/? Kings’s Cross is one of the most frequently used stations in London Transport's subway network. The King’s Cross station is operated by 5 different lines in 4 different levels. In addition there is a distribution hall with ticket offices, placed below street level. From the distribution hall several escalators descend to the different platforms. The fire started in escalator 4, which serves Piccadilly Line's platforms.
After about 15 minutes moderate fire, a flashover of the whole upper part of the escalator shaft and the distribution hall suddenly occurred. The length and great inclination of the escalator shaft contributed to intensify the fire. Trains that continued running for some time after the fire broke out, rescued the passengers on the lower platforms.
1984
Dec 23rd
San Benedetto tunnel

Italy

Bomb 18.5 km

Double
tracked

17 fatalities
120 injured
A bomb was detonated in a passenger train in the middle of the 18,5 km long double tracked San Benedetto tunnel between Bologna and Florence. The explosion totally destroyed 2 cars, but no large fire was developed. It took more than 2 hours before the rescue team reached the injured passengers in the tunnel.
A very long access route, scattered pieces of wreckage, torn down main electric supply and total darkness caused the long delay.
1980
April 8th

Hamburg;
U-Bahn

Germany

Fire in
train
Metro-
system
0 fatalities
3 injured
A fire broke out in a train car in the Hamburg Subway. A passenger at the Altona station gave alarm, and the train driver immediately tried to put out the fire with a fire extinguisher. The attempt failed, and alarm was given to the control room, which called the fire department. The fire department was quickly in place, but the platform was totally covered by smoke, so all work had to be performed with smoke proof breathing equipment.
3 firemen suffered from smoke injuries from the incident. No passengers were injured. The fire started in a seat, and the prevailing car was totally over ignited after about 9 minutes.
1979
Jan 17th

BART; San Fransisco

USA

Fire 5.9 km
BART-
metro

Twin bore
tunnel with
service tube

1fatality
58 injured
A fire broke out in a circuit breaker in the 5th and 6th of 7 cars in all. The train was stopped by the emergency break and could not be restarted. An unsuccessful attempt to disconnect the burning cars delayed the evacuation and escape of the passengers with about 30 minutes. The tunnel was filled with smoke despite of induced draught outlet every 300 m and activation of the ventilation system.
The passengers were taken to the service tunnel and out in the open air through the other main tunnel. Smoke was drawn into the service tunnel and the other main tunnel. The fire caused 1 fatality and 58 serious or minor injuries, most of them caused by flue gases or poisonous gases from combustion of plastics. The death victim was a fireman who died due to flue gas poisoning.
The tunnel system has intervening connections from the main tunnel to the service tunnel every 100 m.
1977
May 20th
Saint Julien
France
Collision < 1 km 1 fatality Collision between two trains on the line from Chambery to Modane. One of the train drivers was killed.
1975
Oct 20th

Mexico City

Collision;
front - rear
Metro-
system

Station

34 fatalities Front-rear collision between two trains at a subway station in Mexico City. The other train omitted to stop when activation of the emergency brake stopped the first train. The collision took place at high speed.
One of the cars in the other train climbed the car in front and almost damaged the station ceiling.
1975
Feb 28th

Moorgate,
London

Wall
collision
Metro-
system

Terminal,
end station

43 fatalities
74 injured
An arriving 6-car train drove at high speed into the end wall of the tunnel at Moorgate without activating the brakes. The train driver was killed and the cause of the accident is still not revealed.
Subsequent to the accident the subway system in London was furnished with a mechanical device, which will activate the brakes automatically in similar situations.
1972
Nov 6th

Hokuriku tunnel,

Japan

Fire 13.9 km,
built 1962

Double
tracked

30 fatalities
many injured
A dining car in the late night train "Kitaguni" caught fire while the train was in the tunnel. The train driver tried to disconnect the burning car, but a power failure brought the train to a stop in the tunnel in darkness. The passengers evacuated the train and tried to get away from the fire and to escape the tunnel. Trains on the other track picked up some of the passengers, but most of them tried to evacuate by foot. Rescue trains were driven in from both sides and most of the passengers were rescued, but there were many injuries. After the accident, criticism was raised at inadequate illumination and ventilation.
1972
June 17th

Vierzy
tunnel

France

Structural collapse 0.8 km

Double
tracked

108 fatalities
240 injured
In the 110 year old Vierzy tunnel between Paris Gare de Nord and Soissons parts of the roof and overlying mass suddenly fell down on the line and blocked both tracks. Almost simultaneously trains from both directions drove into the tunnel. The train speed was about 110 km/h. The cross-section was filled by twisted and distorted metal parts from the two trains. There was no sign of the accident outside the tunnel apart from the warning bells on an activated level crossing.
The rescue work was very difficult due to fear of further landslides, scarcity of space and restrictions against use of acetylene cutting torch because of poor ventilation. The last two survivors were rescued 40 hours after the accident, and the last perished, one of the drivers, was removed 5 days after the accident.
1971
March 20th
Crozet
Colission
Fire
< 1 km
Double
tracked
2 fatalities A freight train carrying tankcars with petroleum products derailed in the tunnel. A train driving in the opposite direction on the neighbouring track hit the derailed cars. The train driving staff in the train hitting the derailed cars were killed.
1971
Feb 14th
Vranduk tunnel

Jugoslavia

Fire 1.6 km

Single
track?

34 fatalities
of about 200
passengers
A Diesel-electric locomotive in a train carrying 200 passengers caught fire in the Vranduk tunnel between Zeneca and Doboi in Bosnia. The train stopped about 300 m from the northern end of the tunnel. During the locomotive staff's attempt to put out the fire, it spread to the cars. Some of the passengers jumped from the train and tried to escape from the smoke filled and dark tunnel, but was unable to get out.
1969
Nov 8th

Simplon-
tunnel

Switzerland -
Italy

Fire 19.8 km

Double
track

0/0 A fire started in a diesel-powered train immediately after the train had entered the tunnel, most likely in the machinery in the stern end of the train. The passengers were directed forward in the train. The train stopped at an emergency station with an emergency telephone. The burning car was disconnected from the rest of the train and the rest of the train with the passengers could drive out of the tunnel with only a 14-minute delay. 10 of the passengers however, did not follow the instructions from the conductor, and under guidance from to railroad employees they proceeded to the tunnel gateway. The light conditions were poor and the passengers were also obstructed by smoke. A train driving carefully towards them from the opposite direction rescued these passengers. There were no injuries. The fire extinguishing started after one hour and lasted for about three hours. The tunnel was re-opened the following day.
1958
July 28th
Shepards Bush/Holland Park
London, UK
Fire Metro-
system
1 fatality
51 injured
A sparkover in the electro-technical equipment caused a powerful electric arc that caused subsequent fires. Delayed evacuation of the train caused intense smoke exposure of the passengers during evacuation. One person died in hospital after the accident.
1944
March 2nd

Armi
tunnel

Italy

Carbon-
monoxide
poisoning
About
1-1.5 km

Single
track?

426 fatalities
60 injured
Two steam locomotives drove a long and heavy train from Balvano to Potenza. The train experienced problems in a tunnel with strong inclination due to low quality coal. The train used a very long time in the tunnel without getting through, and in the end it had to back out of the tunnel. Most of the passengers in the train had suffocated of carbon monoxide poisoning by then.
The incident took place during the allied invasion of Italy in World War II. One source indicates that the travellers were stowaways on a freight train, while others have indicated that it was a matter of evacuation of civilians, transportation of troops etc. From the description of the course of events, it seems possible or probable that open cars were used.
1944
Jan 3rd

Torre,
Spain

Collision
Fire
  91 fatalities Due to braking defects an 11-car passenger train collided with a shunt in a tunnel near Torre station on the Leon - Coruna line. A following collision with a coal train occurred when the shunting locomotive was pushed out of the tunnel. 6 cars caught fire. The middle part of the tunnel was still blocked by burning wreckage the following day.
1921
Oct 5th

Batignolles- tunnel

Paris,
France

Collision;
front - rear
Fire
About 1 km

Double
track

>28 fatalities A local train heading for Versailles stopped in the Batignolles tunnel, which is situated right outside Gare St Lazaire in Paris. Due to a mistake the subsequent train received permission to drive into the tunnel. The train drove into the rear end of the first train.
Some people died in the collision, but even more died as a result of a subsequent fire caused by discharging gases from the train's illumination system which caught fire.
After this accident all gas illumination on trains in France was replaced with electrical illumination. There are reasons to believe that the number of fatalities could be higher than the official number of 28 fatalities.

© 2002 Terje Andersen

Paper: Safety in railway tunnels and selection of tunnel concept Norwegian version

Significant metro fires 1970 - 1987

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This page was last modified on November 29, 2002