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French rail disaster probe finds tracks "in state of disrepair"

Experts tasked with investigating one of France's worst train accidents found "a state of disrepair never seen before" on the rail network, French media reported on Sunday.

PARIS: Experts tasked with investigating one of France's worst train accidents found "a state of disrepair never seen before" on the rail network, French media reported on Sunday.

Michel Dubernard and Pierre Henquenet, appointed by a court to find the cause of the July 2013 Bretigny-sur-Orge derailment that left seven people dead, ruled out a malicious act in their report, according to Le Figaro.

But they found more than 200 problems relating to the part of the track where the crash occurred and that the damage took place "over several months".

The experts concluded that "most of these problems were known to SNCF" and were not repaired adequately.

State-owned rail operator SNCF and track management company RFF quickly rebutted the alleged findings on Sunday.

In a joint statement, the companies said they "categorically contest" that the rail network was in a state of disrepair, and urged "the greatest caution" in interpreting extracts of the report published by the press.

"The French rail network is the object of maintenance at a very high level and constant monitoring," the two companies said.

The presidents of RFF and SNCF are due to speak to the press on Monday.

The SNCF has blamed the accident -- which saw an intercity train derail as it sped through the station, crashing into the platform -- on a connecting bar that had come loose at a rail switchpoint.

The SNCF carried out extensive checks of its rail switchpoints after the accident on July 12 at the Bretigny-sur-Orge station, about 25 kilometres south of Paris.

Shortly after the accident, a judicial inquiry was opened to investigate whether charges of involuntary homicide should be made.

The conclusions of the forensic experts were made public a few days before the first anniversary of the disaster. A memorial service for those killed in the crash is scheduled for Saturday in Bretigny.

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