Broken power wire caused the fire on freight train carrying cars a year ago

Photo: Twitter. @Tijn_Toets

Almost a year ago, on Wednesday, 14 September, a DB Cargo train transiting in the Netherlands caught fire near the city of Breda on the south of Rotterdam. The train was carrying brand-new hybrid Ford cars, 42 of which were destroyed. A year later, ProRail’s investigation showed that the fire broke out due to a broken power wire, still fed with electricity that got entangled with the train’s pantograph, thus creating the perfect conditions for a fire to break out.

The train was transiting between Roosendal and Vlissingen Sloehaven. The pantograph’s entanglement in the broken wire resulted in the train pulling the overhead line for 800 metres, according to the Dutch Infrastructure Manager ProRail. Consequently, the broken wire touched the wagons and the cars, and fire broke out in three parts of the train. As a result, 42 cars and four wagons were destroyed that day, while the line remained closed for two days until the overhead line was repaired.

Incorrect repair

ProRail claims that this situation resulted from two different factors. The investigation showed that the broken power wire was subject to an emergency repair carried out before. However, the repair was not carried out correctly, and the wire broke.

At the same time, though, another unfortunate coincidence occurred, which was the main reason for the fire breaking out. ProRail’s Operational Control Center Infrastructure (OBI) employees tried to switch the electricity feed on the overhead lines; however, by mistake, they restored power to the broken wire. As if that was not enough, the power switch broke, and the OBI employees could no longer turn the power off. Consequently, the broken wire continued being electrified for 18 more minutes, during which the train incident occurred.

Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is the Chief Editor of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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