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Germany

Express train stops in tunnel, stranding over 400 passengers

More than 400 passengers were stuck in a tunnel in southwestern Germany for over three hours, after an express train broke down with engine damage. The on-board air conditioning also failed, causing minor health scares.

A close-up shot of a clock at a German train station.

The breakdown cost 420 passengers over three hours

An express train from Berlin to Munich ground to a halt close to Stuttgart on Sunday, after suffering engine failure.

The 420 passengers on board were stranded in a tunnel near Vaihingen an der Enz in the southwestern state of Baden-Wuerttemberg for over three hours without air conditioning.

One was later hospitalized and three more required minor medical treatment because of the rising temperatures on board.

The Inter City Express (ICE) train stopped because of a problem with the engine, which also powers the climate control systems. However, batteries continued to power the lights, toilets and door switches during the lengthy delay.

Plan B

German rail operator Deutsche Bahn first tried to solve the problem by sending a locomotive to tow the stranded train to its next stop in Stuttgart.

An ICE train in service with the sun setting behind it.

The German rail service has endured a trying summer

However, when this attempt failed, a replacement was sent instead, and passengers eventually switched trains inside the tunnel. A Deutsche Bahn spokesman said the train stopped at around 1 p.m., with the replacement eventually arriving at 4:30 p.m. Critics said the prolonged wait showed that the German railway service lacks the capacity to deal with unexpected problems.

"If it's too much to ask of Deutsche Bahn to tow away one stranded ICE in a case like this," regional head of the train passengers association Pro-Bahn, Stefan Buhl said, "then it's difficult to imagine what might happen in a genuine catastrophe."

The breakdown forced Deutsche Bahn to close the line in both directions for the entire time period – diverting other services onto an older, slower line, delaying them by roughly quarter of an hour.

Deutsche Bahn is legally obliged to pay back half the cost of the ticket to any passengers whose trains are delayed by two hours or more.

It's been a difficult summer for the German railway operator, which made the headlines during a July heat-wave when the air conditioning systems failed on three ICE trains and 44 passengers collapsed in the heat.

Author: Mark Hallam (AFP/apn/dpa)
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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