These railway workers are not prosecuted, but cited as witnesses. On the other hand, the accusation accuses the SNCF and SNCF Réseau of having poorly or insufficiently trained their agents, as well as a lack of staff.
On July 12, 2013, the Paris-Limoges derailed at Brétigny station, south of Paris. The investigation concluded that there was a slow process of degradation of the switchgear, combined with faulty monitoring. A hypothesis disputed by the SNCF, which attributes the accident to an undetectable defect in the steel.
At the helm, Christophe Peduzzi, operational technician at the SNCF at the time of the tragedy, admitted “having suffered from the lack of personnel” but estimated that the maintenance objectives were “assured in the long term”.
“I absolutely dispute that the staff and the skills of the agents were not sufficient to ensure maintenance”, added Alain Autruffe, legal representative of the SNCF.
Monday, a former executive of the SNCF has yet delivered an alarming testimony. “I couldn’t take it anymore, the tracks were really very degraded,” said this local leader from 2010 to 2012 in Brétigny.
“I really had the impression of being alone with my problems”, he continued, even referring to “commando” interventions carried out “at night with trainees”. He has since left SNCF.
– “My own training” –
The prosecution also criticizes a lack of supervision at SNCF and SNCF Réseau. In particular, Mr. Peduzzi had to control the quality of the work of the railway workers.
On Tuesday, this witness recognized a difficulty in carrying out “checks” on site: he worked during the day while the agents worked at night for heavy maintenance operations. His assessment was then based on “returns of documents” completed by the agents.
The Brétigny sector was characterized by complex crossings, called “double junction crossings” (TJD), which were to be renewed in 2016.
“A TJD is made up of 932 parts”, underlines the president of the room. “It’s so many bolts, fasteners… you need competent people motivated for this colossal maintenance challenge”.
“Additional staff would not have been a luxury,” admits Eric Gerol, support technician at the time of the tragedy. However, he maintains that he has never lacked it for his construction sites.
And his training? “I did not master all the software”, but “I did my own training” with “colleagues”.
“Do you think you managed to keep the crossings in an acceptable state?” Asks a lawyer for the civil parties. M. Gerol is silent.
“You can take the time you want to answer. It’s your truth,” said the president. “What is said in court protects you from any pressure.”
Mr. Gerol is still silent. “I don’t know what worries you… Is it that complicated to answer?” asks the president. “Yes”, answers this SNCF employee.
During the investigation, telephone interceptions revealed comments made by an expert, commissioned after the tragedy by the SNCF. According to them, “the guys from Brét” (Brétigny) were “burnes”, “to be placed under guardianship”, in particular accused of not dealing with “emergencies” – and that after the disaster.
On Tuesday, a maintenance manager assured that he had not received any specific alerts on Brétigny. And the SNCF has again defended “quality” training, with authorizations granted subject to reassessment.