Incident on the Vanoise Express

It sounds like a scene from the latest disaster movie.  The biggest, newest and most prestigious cable car in the world hurtling out of control into the winch station.  Only no explosions, injuries and Bruce Willis in a string vest, just broken windows, a damaged cabin, a derailed cable and lots of embarrassment.

At 9pm on the 13th of November one of the cabins of the Vanoise-Express cable car, linking the ski resorts of La Plagne and Les Arcs crashed into the station on the Peisey-Vallandry side of the valley.  It was travelling at 20 km/h, 10 times faster than the normal docking speed.  The technician piloting the cabin “didn’t see it coming,” according to Phillipe Laville, the Deputy Director of Operations for the manufacturers Pomagalski.

Engineers from a supplier of Pomalski based in Genona in Italy are on the scene to remove the outer shell and inspect the structure of the cabin for possible damage and modifications.  The remaining cabin is continuing with tests.  The hydraulic buffers, used to absorb shocks when docking, were completely destroyed.  The massive double decker cabin, capable of carrying 200 skiers, is apparently now being repaired in a workshop in nearby Bourg St Maurice. This is expected to take three weeks.

Mr Laville continued “it is an rare and isolated incident, this couldn’t happen under computer control.” SELALP, the company responsible for the new link, highlighted that the accident occurred during exhaustive testing, no staff were injured during the accident and that manual control is not used during normal operation.

Opening is still scheduled for the 20th of December assuming all tests are passed to the satisfaction of the lift company, the constructor and the French safety agency.

The Grande Motte cable car was out of action for six weeks at the start of last season due to a accident involving one of the cabins during de-icing operations.  The push and pull system employed on the Vanoise Express means that the cable car can operate even without one of the cabins.

Cable car safety is once again on the agenda with the opening of the trial of the Pic de Bure accident.  The Pic de Bure cable car was also built by Pomagalski in 1982.  It was used to ferry personel and materials to an observatory and was therefore subject to less stringent safety checks.  In 1984 the safety brake was deactivated before being removed completely in 1986.  The accident occured on the morning of the 1st of July 1999, the cabin slipped on the cable after crossing the 2nd pylon and then fell 80 meters, all 20 occupants were killed. The cable had been treated with an anti-corrosion product the day before the accident.

Posted by davidof on Wednesday, 19 November, 2003 at 07:59 PM

More woes for the Vanoise Express. The Cable Car link between les Arcs and la Plagne will be shut for the entire 2007-2008 winter season after problems have been found with the cables. The cable will be replaced in the spring. The Paradiski pass will still be on sale, but you will have to travel between the resorts by bus, car or even touring skis, just like the olden days.

There have been a number of problems involving cables in recent years.

Posted by davidof on  Friday, 21 December, 2007  at 09:56 PM

Comag, part of the Pomagalski group, has been working on changing the cables since the start of July. Each cable weighs 55 tonnes, so this is a delicate operation. Two of the four cables have already been replaced and work is said to be a week ahead of schedule. The first tests should begin in mid-September with the cable car being operational for the start of the season.

The old cables are being stored so experts from the various insurance companies can try and establish who is responsible for the costs. The cables were designed for a 20 year lifespan but showed signs of wear after 4 years use. Comag have suggested that the corrosion was due to tension in the cables.

Posted by davidof on  Friday, 05 September, 2008  at 11:21 AM

It sounds like a scene from the latest disaster movie. I like it mostly. Thanks smile

Posted by  on  Tuesday, 12 July, 2011  at 02:47 PM
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