Dsalvaging the gas freight wagons that crashed and repairing the destroyed section of track on the railway line between Hanover and Berlin will probably take many more days. This is the assessment of the responsible fire brigade in Meinersen (Gifhorn district). Deutsche Bahn does not expect the damage to be repaired quickly either. The route will remain closed until at least November 27th, a railway spokeswoman said on Saturday evening. An exact prognosis is difficult.
Early on Thursday morning, a freight train stopped at a signal on the important west-east connection near Leiferde. A freight train following behind had driven up for reasons that were initially unclear. Four wagons overturned and the overhead line was also damaged. The approaching train consisted of 25 tank cars filled with propane gas. The hydrocarbon is extremely flammable – the risk of explosion must be taken into account during recovery. Both freight trains came from private companies.
Gas is to be burned off in a controlled manner
According to the fire brigade, pumps to suck out the propane were positioned on Saturday afternoon, and work should begin late in the evening. There are currently six wrecked wagons at the scene of the accident, including four tank wagons originally carrying 200 tons of gas. “You can probably get about half out of the overturned wagons,” it said. “The rest then has to be burned off carefully and in a controlled manner.” This could take a few days.
In the meantime, two factory fire brigades have arrived with specialized equipment, and a third is expected on Sunday. The railway has reinforced several dirt roads in the forest area with gravel so that the vehicles can drive to the accident site, which is difficult to access. Material inspectors also examined the condition of the wagons. The Technical Relief Agency (THW) is also in action.
Repair only after evacuation
“Only when the scene of the accident has been cleared can we start repair work there,” said the spokeswoman for the railway company. Significant damage was already evident, for example to the overhead lines and the track bed.
Train passengers have to be prepared for cancellations and delays due to the complicated clean-up work. Trains are diverted widely. Initially, the railway assumed that the route would only be closed until Sunday evening.
There is a special gesture of goodwill for passengers who want to postpone a planned trip: Long-distance tickets that have already been booked can be used flexibly up to and including December 4th, and seat reservations can be canceled free of charge.