Masked gang stages raid on French freight train

French police are investigating a heist on a Euro Cargo Rail (ECR) freight train last week in what is being described as a “modern-day stagecoach robbery”.

In a scene reminiscent of the Wild West’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, a masked gang blocked the railway line between Marseilles and Miramas on the French south coast last Thursday.

The blockade of shopping trolleys and wooden planks forced a local passenger train and a following freight train to stop. The first train was reported to have been damaged when it collided with the makeshift barrier although none of the 26 passengers on board were injured.

After both trains had stopped, the gang of 20, wearing ski masks and armed with iron bars, boarded the Euro Cargo Rail train, raided the carriages and made off with unspecified items.

Marseilles police trade union representative David-Olivier Reverdy said: “Attacks on trains aren’t new, but it is a pretty rare phenomenon. It’s reminiscent of a stagecoach attack in the Wild West.”

The French railway union has called for increased protection for railways and workers, saying: “The robbery is a sign that the railway authority is not investing enough in the security of its sites.”

In the last such robbery in the area, in June 2008, thieves stopped a freight train and made off with computer equipment.

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