New train derails while being tested

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UPDATED: The heavily trafficked rail line known as Vestfoldbanen was closed between Tønsberg and Holmestrand on Wednesday morning, after a new high-speed train on a test run derailed near Nykirke. All five persons on board the train were injured in the accident, one of them seriously.

Police reported that four persons were sent to hospital in Tønsberg while one, a 56-year-old man, was sent to Ulleval University Hospital in Oslo. His injuries were not said to be life-threatening.

State railway NSB confirmed that one carriage on the train overturned while others were severely damaged. The state commission charged with investigating the cause of accidents, Havarikommisjonen, was on the scene by mid-afternoon.

Bound for Drammen
No passengers were on board the train, which is one of the new so-called “Flirt” trains due to start running soon in regularly scheduled service. Vestfoldbanen is a major commuter line between Vestfold County and Oslo.

NSB spokesman Håkon Myhre told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that five NSB employees were on board when the accident occurred. The train was traveling toward Drammen when it derailed around 10:30am and crashed into a hillside.

NSB officials confirmed that several hundred meters of track were also severely damaged in the derailment and it would take time to make repairs. Bus service was being organized to carry passengers around the site of the accident.

NRK reported that two helicopters, six ambulances, three fire trucks and many police cars were at or near the scene of the accident, otherwise described as a relatively remote area.

Phase-in postponed indefinitely
The new trains, built by Stadler of Switzerland, first arrived in Norway last year and are supposed to start running on the line between Skien and Oslo and on to Lillehammer this year. They have a top speed of 200 kilometers per hour and are an important part of state efforts to renew and improve train service in Norway.

Transport Minister Magnhild Meltveit Kleppa was among those testing out the first trains to come to Norway last spring, and said their award-winning design and comfort weren’t their most important aspects. “Punctuality and reliability will be critical,” she said.

Wednesday’s derailment looked likely to delay the roll-out of the trains, of which 50 are due to start service from next year. The current test-run program was halted immediately and Myhre said the trains’ introduction into regular service was postponed indefinitely.

The Flirt-model trains cost NOK 4.2 billion and can carry nearly 300 passengers on each set of five carriages. They currently operate in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and Finland. Former NSB boss Einar Enger had said NSB management was “completely sure” that the trains had been tested under wintry conditions and would run well in Norway.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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