SERIOUS flooding has damaged railways in both Europe and North America this summer, resulting in at least two passenger train derailments because of bridge collapses. One was Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, which left the track at around 145 km/h while traversing a damaged bridge over a desert gully in northwestern Arizona in early August. The line had been inspected shortly before the train passed, and no problems had been spotted. After the derailment Burlington Northern Santa Fe officials ordered that passenger train speeds should be limited to 30 km/h and freight to 65 km/h when flash-flood warnings had been issued.

Another derailment saw 10 serious and 54 minor injuries to passengers on the seven-coach Wien - Warzsawa Eurocity Sobieski on July 7 near Suchdol nad Odru. This was just one of many flood incidents paralysing rail traffic in the Czech Republic, where the worst affected regions were in Moravia and northeastern Bohemia. CD was forced to close its main east-west Praha - Ostrava - Zilina corridor and the north - south main line from Petrovice to Ostrava, Prerov and Breclav. On the east-west route nearly 265 km were declared unusable between Chocen and Trinec, the worst affected section being from Uti nad Orlici to Moravicany, where floodwaters tore down six bridges and ruined signalling and other equipment.

CD said that 946 route-km, 13 stations, 23 bridges and nine substations have been damaged or destroyed, with power lines and communications cut for hundreds of kilometres. The cost of the damage is put at KC1·8bn, which does not do much to enhance CD’s wobbly finances. There are suggestions that 14 local lines damaged in the floods will not be restored to traffic. o