Rail routes for dangerous cargos

France is considering building a new railway to carry lorries laden with dangerous goods. Despite an accident earlier this month in which a train carrying 1500 tonnes of fuel was derailed, causing a massive fire, Environment Minister Segolene Royal and Transport Minister Jean-Louis Bianco emphasised that the transport of dangerous materials by rail is safer. Royal says she will push for the construction of ‘rail highways’ where lorries would be put on trains and bypass major cities. According to the organisation Observatoire Economique et Statistique des Transports, almost 150 million tonnes of dangerous materials were transported across France in 1991, 84 per cent by lorry, 1 per cent by rail and 3 per cent by water. Police statistics and those from the state-owned railway, SNCF, show that in 1990 and 1991 there were 388 accidents involving lorries transporting dangerous goods including 124 in which the goods caused damage or injury. During the same years, the SNCF registered 24 accidents, almost all of them derailments. Marius Belmain, head of a commission on the transport of hazardous materials,
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