Passenger Rail, Safety, Standards & Regulation

SNCF wants police action following Paris-Roubaix incident

Paris - Roubaix level crossing incident. Graphic: Eurosport

French rail operator SNCF is reportedly demanding police take action to investigate the level crossing ‘near miss’ which took place at the Paris-Roubaix one-day bike race this weekend.

A number of competitors in the well-known annual event went through a set of boom gates which had already lowered, with the final rider crossing ahead of the train just 12 seconds before it went through the junction.

While race organisers took no action against the offending riders, saying most were unable to stop in time, SNCF wants riders who crossed the tracks to be prosecuted.

The operator reportedly told a number of media agencies that the cyclists had acted “against all safety rules”.

“Millions of television viewers saw live this extremely serious and irresponsible action which could have been tragic,” SNCF was quoted across a number of sources.

“A few seconds later, a TGV ran on this line and could have hit the peleton.”

Riders were reportedly 10 minutes ahead of schedule due to a strong tail wind, leading to the unfortunate timing of the train and the peleton.

While some riders made it through the junction, others ducked and dodged the lowering boom gates, while several more riders wound their way past the lowered gates, before a policeman onboard a motorcycle ordered riders to stop.

The dramatic footage has been viewed several million times on YouTube since it was posted by one user.

Shortly after the event finished, race organisers played down the incident, saying riders would not be punished.

“It wasn’t possible for the leading riders to stop sufficiently safely,” president of the jury of race commissioners Guy Dobbelaere was quoted by the BBC. “The peloton was 10 metres away when the barrier started to close.”

The International Cycling Union (UCI) requested a comprehensive report from organisers, describing the incident as “extremely worrying”.

This year’s Paris-Roubaix featured 10 level crossings. Rail junctions have come into play in the past, with riders punished in 2006 after going through a pair of lowered boom gates in that year’s race.

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