France's trains are too wide: 6 notorious engineering oversights
$68M mistake joins list of infamous errors
They measured the new trains, they checked against the latest specs on the book. But engineers at the French railway network forgot to go and measure the actual distance between lines and platforms — a mistake that will cost $68 million US to fix.
Nearly 1,300 stations are just a few centimetres too narrow for the 341 new trains that were to be introduced between now and 2016. The problem with older stations was first reported in the French weekly Le Canard Enchaine and confirmed Wednesday by French railway and government officials.
Jacques Rapoport, president of rail infrastructure organization RFF, acknowledged the problem was "discovered a little late" — like some other notorious engineering miscalculations:
Two sets of engineers, one working in metric and the other working in the U.S. imperial system, failed to communicate at crucial moments in constructing the $125 million spacecraft. The result? It crashed into the Martian atmosphere and probably ended up orbiting the sun, lost in space for perpetuity. NASA said the error had probably been causing glitches in the mission for 669 million kilometres before the spectacularly embarrassing failure on Sept. 23, 1999.
Tacoma Narrows Bridge
Jetliners were just coming into their own, with the pioneering Comet, built by the British company de Havilland. Then, in 1954, two of the jets broke apart mid-flight. The reason? After putting the Comet's fuselage into a giant water tank, researchers figured it out: square windows. Metal fatigue was causing small cracks to form at the edges of the windows, and the pressurized cabins exploded.
It was the first pedestrian bridge to span London's Thames River in a century, and closed two days after opening in 2000 after it developed a wobble under the footsteps of thousands of visitors — first eager, then a little seasick. The error was similar to the one that took down the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, but with a twist — it was caused by a human tendency to match footsteps to the sway of the span to keep balance, magnifying lateral movements. It reopened in 2002 after an $8 million repair.