On August 26, 1995, the Saturday of the final and busiest weekend of France’s summer holiday season, terrorists attempted to derail the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) between Lyon and Paris by planting a bomb. Fortunately, their crude triggering mechanism failed to detonate the bomb, and subsequent analysis indicates that even had the bomb gone off, the explosion would not have derailed the train. The TGV episode, one of a continuing series of case studies by the Mineta Transportation Institute, points to a continuing problem: Since 1995, terrorists have attempted to derail trains on at least 144 occasions. Because of the expansion of high-speed rail systems in Europe, Asia, and North America, where 15 high-speed rail projects are in preparation or under way in the United States alone, this case study has been expanded to include a chronology and statistical analysis of attempted derailments worldwide. This analysis examines the geographic distribution of the attempts, the methods used by the saboteurs, and the outcomes. Although based on a small universe of events, it underscores both the attractiveness to terrorists of attacking transportation systems—a successful attack can result in high body counts, significant disruption, dramatic images, and enormous publicity, all things sought by terrorists—and the difficulties of achieving success.

Publication Date


Publication Type



Transportation Security/Counterterrorism

MTI Project



Bombings; Bombs; Casualties; Terrorism; Trains