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Cracks found on rail track used for nuclear transports

The Swiss authorities have imposed a speed limit on a rail track between Basel and the French border used for transporting spent nuclear fuel rods, after cracks were found on parts of the line.

This content was published on March 8, 2000 - 11:40

The Swiss authorities have imposed a speed limit on a rail track between Basel and the French border used for transporting spent nuclear fuel rods, after cracks were found on parts of the line.

The Transport and Energy Minister, Moritz Leuenberger, has ordered a halt to the transport of the rods from Swiss power stations along the track until repair work has been carried out.

The maximum speed of trains will be 40 kilometres per hour instead of the current 70 kilometres per hour. The decision to reduce the limit was taken on Tuesday following an inspection by experts from the Swiss Federal Railways and the French National Railways (SNCF).

Representatives from the Swiss Transport Ministry accompanied rail officials on an inspection of the line after local newspaper reports in both Switzerland and France.

The track runs north of Basel through residential areas and is used by international passenger trains travelling on the Benelux to Italy route, regional traffic, as well as goods trains with dangerous substances. A spokesman for the Transport Ministry said trains with aircraft fuel and chemical products would still be allowed to circulate because there was no danger.

The line is completely on Swiss territory and owned by the Swiss Federal Railways but it is rented to the SNCF which has to maintain it. The track in question is between 20 and 25 years old and is to be further inspected by the SNCF with ultra-sonic testing equipment.

The first trains ever to run in Switzerland came from France to Basel over a stretch of 1,800 metres of Swiss territory in June 1844. They entered the station through a set of doors which were locked at night because they were set in a wall forming part of the city's ramparts.

By Rob Brookes.

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