The brand new ICE train 884 was developed in competition with the high-speed trains of Japan and France. The manufacturers knew there was a problem with the wheels, which did not fit the old tracks seen many places in Germany. In Japan and France the wheels had been modified, but the German train continued driving with the new wheels.
Instead the track was redesigned to a quadruple track allowing separation of the high-speed trains from slower services. Such an arrangement by allowing faster trains to overtake slower ones permits more intensive operation than would be possible on a two-track line. Further, to maximize track usage, it is expedient to provide a means of transferring a train from the slow to fast lines and back.
It seems probable that the cause of the accident was an internal fracture on a wheel on one of the leading passenger cars some six kilometres before the site of the crash. Then the wheel derailed onto the outside of the right-hand rail and when it came to the turnout point 300 metres before the bridge it was diverted towards the slowline and onto a collision course with the bridge supports.
The train was moving at 200 kph. When the bridge collapsed, the carriages were buried underneath it. After the accident, The National Railways Committee expressed shock at the accident and said that this kind of accident was impossible to predict.
The following debate suggested that there might be a problem inherent in this type of wheel with suggestions that the destruction of the wheel of Car 802-6 was due to metal fatigue. However, after the accident, all ICE 1s were immediately withdrawn and their wheels subjected to two inspections. This revealed no problems with any of them and the trains were returned to service.
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