In early 2017, the small exurb of Kitchen City commissioned a detailed survey evaluating a potential rail link with MonoTown. Despite the fact that Kitchen City committed to raising the vast majority of capital required to complete the link, MonoTowners twice voted against the proposed rail link due to fears of ongoing maintenance costs, and concerns that the passenger service could impact the already at-capacity rail network within MonoTown. Opponents of the line pointed out that cost overruns were inevitable, and there would significant disruption of shipping lanes while the requisite bridges and tunnel works were undertaken. The rail link would require punching a new tunnel through the Sea Wall of MonoTown as well, and while not unheard of, this type of heavy engineering on the most important infrastructure element of the city always carries risks.
Despite these setbacks, and the twice-voted-down proposal, in 2018 Kitchen City began construction of the rail line starting from its borders and began making progress towards MonoTown. In addition to the maritime engineering required, the rail line had to traverse Kitchen Canyon, a magnificently beautiful, but extremely treacherous canyon set in the heart of very mountainous terrain. As progress was made and the first milestone achieved, Kitchen City celebrated their success in building one of the most incredible (and scenic) rail lines the world had ever seen. In a bid to convince MonoTown to approve construction within its borders and complete the rail link, the mayor of Kitchen City invited his counterpart, the media, and other high profile MonoTowners to be his guest on the inaugural passenger run through the canyon.
As the train glided out of the station in Kitchen City and headed into the canyon, its progress was was followed live by both MonoTownTV journalists aboard the train and also from helicopters pacing the train. On turn 3, disaster struck – the train derailed at high speed and plunged more than 300 feet into Kitchen Canyon. Fifteen railway employees, twenty-five journalists, thirty-five citizens of Kitchen City, thirty-five citizens of MonoTown, and the mayors of both MonoTown and Kitchen City perished while the disaster was broadcast on live TV. It remains one of the worst transport disasters in the history of MonoTown.
The crash meant that then relatively unknown Minister of Energy Emily Chapman was elevated to mayor through the MonoTown rules of succession as most of the cabinet, the the deputy major were on board at the time. A High Inquest commission by both cities cited sloppy construction practices and insufficient testing as the main factors causing the derailment, but the rushed and unilateral nature of the project was also pointed to as a contributing factor.
Mystery, Conspiracy, and Confusion
The events have always remained shrouded in mystery as there were rumors that Von Baron Logistics may have sought to block an attempt to break its near-monopoly on rail service to and from MonoTown, but despite these charges being reviewed by the High Inquest, there was insufficient evidence. Large market moves before and after the disaster seemed to suggest that there was financial profit from the disaster, although again, this was never proven and the entities behind these movements could not be identified. The events caused the subversive online dissent group EUG (Emissaries of the UnderGround) to go viral as its members released numerous conspiracy videos and allegations, many of which were ultimately proven to be accurate during the High Inquest. Some suggested that EUG itself was behind the disaster, others said that EUG had a significant vested interest in the line being completed, while still others pointed to heavy retail financial movements that could have been influenced by EUG before the group was well known.
To make matters even more mysterious, the video evidence and technical data from the train computers was lost by the authorities and their backup systems were corrupted, although EUG alleged that the videos had been destroyed. EUG continues to agitate for reinstatement of the line “as a vital link” required for economic expansion and quality of life and many question what motives EUG has in play. Civil unrest often occurs on the anniversary of what to date has been one of the worst transport disasters on record and authorities often blame this unrest on EUG.
2020 Release of Classified Footage
In 2020, EUG released classified, never-before seen footage of the elevated intercity railway expansion line undergoing testing at speeds far lower than were used during the first outing. This stolen testing footage seemed to suggest that the operation of the line that day was being conducted outside approved and tested parameters. This footage immediately sparked demonstrations in both cities but calls for the inquest to be reopened were not acted upon.
The rail line was ultimately scrapped, plunging Kitchen City into economic ruin as much of its financial resources had been tied up by the endeavor. A financial bailout was requested but numerous countries and the city of MonoTown declined, the latter citing the heavy costs incurred due to insurance payouts, the inquest, and the economic hit to its markets as factoring into its decision. Several salvage expeditions recovered most of the carriages and locomotive, which were ultimately dismantled and sold for scrap.