An “act of sabotage” forced the interruption of the train service at the East Station in Paris on Tuesday, which connects the French capital with Germany, the state railway company SNCF reported.
According to the company, the station traffic will resume on Wednesday although it will be “disturbed”.
“This morning, we were victims of an act of sabotage, Around 3 in the morning. we discovered (…) significant degradations,” said Olivier Bancel, number two at SNCF Réseau, the manager of the French rail system.
“It is an act of sabotage on the signaling cables that have security circuits,” he said.
The events occurred some 20 kilometers away from the station, in Vaires-sur-Marne, “when a box containing the electrical wiring for the circulation panels opened and caught fire,” a police source said.
These cables are essential for railway signaling and track traffic lights, which is why the company decided to completely stop traffic due to the risk of convoy collisions.
Authorities are already investigating the incident
The courts opened an investigation into this incident, which the Minister of Transport, Clément Beaune, described as “quite exceptional and very serious”.
“There is no clue, no claim on the part of a group,” a source close to the investigation told AFP late at night.
“Nothing leads to conjectures about […] the reason for this act of sabotage, which greatly harmed our customers,” said Olivier Bancel.
According to two railway company executives questioned by AFP, the perpetrators knew the network “quite well”, taking into account the affected parties.
The first elements of the investigation point to a knowledge of the terrain on the part of the authors of the action.
Two concrete panels that close the access to a hatch where one of the boxes with cables was located were “removed and placed again” in their place, the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
The same happened with another cable box, which was accessed through a tunnel under the tracks, with no signs that an access gate had been forced.
The sabotage forced the diversion of some of the high-speed trains to a nearby station.
Late in the afternoon, the station, through which 41 million passengers passed in 2019, was practically deserted.
On Wednesday, traffic will be “very disturbed”: one high-speed train in three will be able to circulate, while commuter service will be limited to one convoy in two, SNCF said.
The East station is one of the six major Parisian stations and connects the capital with cities such as Strasbourg (northeast) and destinations such as Germany or Luxembourg.
The incident is reminiscent of an act of sabotage carried out in October against radio cables in Germany that caused a massive breakdown, forcing the interruption of rail traffic in the north of the country for several hours.
In France, on June 25, 2021, a minor fire affected four installations with signaling cabling on a high-speed line and disrupted traffic between Paris and Marseille (south) for more than a day.
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