The accident occurred at 17.25 when the 17.13 Pau - Dax TER train carrying 80 people collided with the rear end of the 16.08 Tarbes – Bordeaux – Paris Montparnasse TGV, which had 175 people on board. According to the Ministry of Transport, 17 people were injured. Six of the injured stayed in hospital overnight of whom two are in a serious condition.

According to Mr Alain Krakovitch, director general of safety, with French National Railways (SNCF), a lineside signal was reported as continually showing red, which caused trains to stop. At 16.45, an electrical engineer went on site to restore normal operation of the signal, which dates from 2008. During this operation, the TGV was authorised to pass the red signal but with its maximum restricted to below 30km/h, allowing the train to stop should the driver encounter a risk. The TER train arrived at the signal 5 minutes after the TGV, stopped, but then resumed normal line speed. The TER train caught up the TGV which was travelling at a much lower speed, and collided with it.

"We need to understand why the TER stopped and then departed," says Krakovitch. "This is what will be determined by the three investigations being conducted: that of justice, the Bureau of Land Transport Accident Investigation (BEA TT) and SNCF."

In the meantime, Krakovitch says measures will be taken immediately to prevent a similar accident from happening again.