train wreck

'The Santiago Train Derailment Could Have Been Prevented with a Euro 6,000 beacon'

This week's Sunday Train reflected on the fatal train derailment in Santiago de Compostela, in Spain, the issue of mortality in both trains and our primary passenger transport system, self-chauffeured automobiles, and the "PTC" technology that can prevent this kind of accident, as well as the fatal rail collision in 2008 between an LA MetroLink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train.

The Sunday Train reacted to an early account with: "the ultimate cause is stated directly after: the line is not within the version of Positive Train Control signal system used in Europe, the ERTMS."

More details have since come to light in the Spanish press, which I have seen as translated by European Tribune user Migeru. They reinforce the picture of a poorly designed transition between high speed rail and conventional rail corridors, a system needlessly exposed to the risk of operator error in braking down from 110mph to 50mph to avoid derailment in the curve.

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Sunday Train: Traveling to Our Death and The Fatal Santiago Train Derailment

At the time that I start writing, the death toll from the train wreck that took place in Santiago de Compostela in Spain has risen to 79. According to an account shortly after the crash (sp):

Alternating AVE segments with segments of conventional track or of lower specifications occurs at other points of the line. The Alvia train between Madrid and Ferrol, the fastest going through Santigo, travels on different tracks. Between Madrid and Olmedo (Valladolid) it takes advantage of the AVE track. Then, between Olmedo and Ourense it returns to a conventional track, waiting for the completion of the AVE works already underway. Finally, between Ourense and Ferrol it again joins the AVE line, which at the entrance to Santiago goes alongside the old track.

 
At that moment, the train must brake and when it reaches the tight bend where the accident took place it must leave it speed at barely 80km/h. The velocity drop at that point is very steep: form 200 km/h to 80 in a short time span.

 
The causes of the excessive speed are still not known. The line where the accident occurred is still not within the ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System), a rail traffic mnagement system preventing a train from exceeding the established speed limit or disobey stop signals, very similar to the automatic alert systems already installed in many European countries. This system is the one deployed, for instance, on the Madrid-Barcelona AVE line in october 2011. (translation by Migeru at the European Tribune)

The statement "the cause of the excessive speed are still not know" is referring to the proximate cause, since the ultimate cause is stated directly after: the line is not within the version of Positive Train Control signal system used in Europe, the ERTMS.

30 July: Also see this UPDATE at Voices on the Square: The Santiago Train Derailment Could Have Been Prevented with a Euro 6,000 beacon

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