YET AGAIN we are obliged to return to the sorry saga of German Railway’s tilting train fleets. In August last year a routine inspection revealed a crack in one axle of a VT612 two-car diesel trainset, prompting temporary withdrawal from service while urgent checks were made on all 192 units in the fleet. Trains returned to traffic with the tilt locked out of use.
Not for the first time (RG 4.04 p199) DB was forced to introduce temporary timetables with longer journey times on many tilt train routes, and this continued after the December 12 timetable change. The problems mainly concern regional routes, with services operated by both the VT612 and the earlier VT611 trainsets affected.
Not only that, but the distance run between major inspections of both types of train has had to be drastically reduced, causing problems with availability. DB is working with its suppliers to prove to the Federal Railway Office that the axles are fit for purpose over the long term, and the end of February has been set as a deadline. Reports indicate that this is unlikely to be met, implying that DB and its passengers may have to accept that tilt train service on many routes is unlikely to be restored in the near future.
The cracked axle issue may be of interest to investigators seeking to determine what caused a Queensland Rail tilt train bound from Brisbane to Cairns to derail on November 16 near Bundaberg. Remarkably, no-one was killed and only five of the 156 passengers were seriously injured as the diesel-powered train turned over on a curve at 112 km/h where the line speed limit was 60 km/h. Suggestions were made last month that a cracked wheel component may have contributed to the accident.