French police investigate Wild West-style train robbery
Jul 8, 2011, 14:40 GMT
Paris - French police were on Friday investigating a train robbery on the outskirts of the city of Marseille, in which a group of youths wearing balaclavas held up a passenger train and robbed a freight train following behind.
In what France Info radio called a 'modern-day stagecoach robbery' the robbers barricaded the tracks running west along the coast from Marseille towards the town of Miramas, with planks and shopping trollies and then lay in wait.
The hold-up took place late Thursday close to a low-income suburb of high-rise apartment blocks, shortly after 9 p.m. (1900 GMT).
The first train to arrive was a regional train, with 26 passengers on board. The train screeched to a halt after hitting one of the shopping trollies. No-one was injured but the train was damaged.
The thieves, some of whom were armed with iron bars according to witnesses, did not target that train.
Their sights were set on a freight train belonging to Euro Cargo Rail (ECR), a subsidiary of Germany's Deutsche Bahn, which arrived down the tracks shortly afterwards.
After rifling through the carriages they made off with some of the merchandise, according to ECR, which said the train was carrying 'consumer goods.'
By the time the police arrived on the scene they had melted back into the landscape.
The passengers on the first train had to disembark and walk 500 metres to the nearest level crossing to be evacuated.
The SNCF denounced the 'act of vandalism' against the passenger train.
ECR called on French authorities to find solutions to ensure the safety of its staff.
The Marseille area has witnessed a number of freight train robberies in recent years. The last incident dates to June 2008 and took place in the same part of the city. On that occasion, the thieves made off with computer equipment after barring a train's path with a container of rubble.