Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Spanish Rail Tragedy 13

A reader has kindly supplied a list of 10 questions to add to those I tabled a couple of days ago. There are surely even more:- 
Q1. Where was driver no. 2? 
Q2. If he was in the rear engine, could he have slowed the train? 
Q3. Were a driver to fall asleep, would he stay in his chair, or has it just one leg? 
Q4. If there were a deep ditch between the train and the wall, would there have been fewer casualties? 
Q5. Are the train traffic controllers aware of the train's speed? 
Q6. If so, could they have communicated with the driver(s)? 
Q7. Does the black box record video of the driver and record sounds - Like snoring for example? 
Q8. Is there a non-defeatable "dead Man's Handle" type device fitted in the cab? 
Q9. Are all drivers searched for mobile phones and other misc. electronic play-things before being allowed to take responsibility for over 250 people's lives? 
Q10. Are all drivers regularly breathalyzed and required to provide frequent, randomly scheduled drug test samples?

I understand the answer to Q1 is that driver no. 2 had handed over to the main driver and had gone down to carriage 7. So he can't know what was going on in the cab.

There's a great deal of complexity to the issue of tracks and security systems. Reader Perry has addressed these and provided substantial data in the Comments to my last 2 or 3 posts.

What has recently emerged is that, although the better ERTMS system was installed along  the entire Ourense-Santiago stretch, it won't be operational until other stretches are completed between now and 2020. So, only the less effective ASFA system operated on this stretch and there is no handover from one to the other and no 'transitional' stretch.

Above all this technical analysis - with more to come when the black box data has been analysed - there is the claim that experts are not just surprised but baffled by what happened. Simply put, even if the driver had been negligently driving at 190kph or, worse, if he'd been bent on suicide plus large-scale murder, even the older system should have slowed and stopped the train. So, the most important question of the moment is: Why didn't it? 

Of course, both in the UK and here, some people think all this analysis is pointless. On the basis of the driver's silly Facebook comments of a year ago, they feel due process should be suspended and he should be hung, drawn and quartered without delay. The words 'witch-hunt' and 'mob' spring to mind.

The backcloth to all this is that, apart from any personal or corporate guilt, very big money is at stake for Adif and RENFE. Indeed, one reader has suggested, that as a result of the crash they've been excluded from a Brazilian tender process for high-speed train installations and management there. No wonder they need to have the driver sacrificed.

Which is not, of course, to say the driver is innocent. We just don't know yet whether he is guilty or not. Or whether others should join him in the dock.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Regardless or other responsible and liable parts, like RENFE, one thing is undisputable: this guy wasn't qualified to do that job. (in the light of the comments he made on facebook)

And no, he shouldn't be hanged and quartered (or whatever the Spanish equivalent of such English punishment). But this is a good starting question: why wasn't he investigated and taken off the job when he made those comments?

Any public transport servant should be vetted for this type of risk-seeking inclinations. Who is responsible for this overlook?