Thursday, July 25, 2013


Some sort of process has begun against one of the two drivers, even though he is still in hospital. In Spanish, he is now 'imputado'. It's not clear that there's a direct equivalent in Anglo-Saxon legal systems. The French24 TV channel this evening said that the driver had been 'taken into custody', which is as close as you can get to being arrested, I feel. Either way, the man will be questioned not only by the police but also by a judge, at the same time, I believe.

The following points emerged from an interview on France24 with a Spanish rail engineer:-

  • The train did not have an automatic braking system going through this curve.
  • An automatic system - the ERMS - is used on the long stretch from Ourense to Santiago but not for the last 3-4km.
  • An automatic system monitors a train continuously and stops the train the second it exceeds the correct speed.
  • A non-automatic system only monitors the speed as the train goes past sensors.
  • The curve exists because it's close to a residential area. Such curves are not uncommon when high-speed trains come into cities. As it's unrealistic to avoid them, it's essential to protect passengers via an automatic braking system. This was not in place at this curve.
  • Railway accidents rarely have just one cause. Usually there's a series of them.
I'm not clear why/how a train could have an automatic system for part of its journey and then only a non-automatic system once it enters urban areas. Perhaps someone could explain. I'm assuming that the infrastructure wasn't in place on the tracks.


Gerald Kelly said...

Have you seen the stuff about the driver's Facebook page, Colin? (boasting about speed, posting photo of train speedo, last year) That isn't being reported here in Blighty, but I've seen it on Spanish news websites, though not on the RTVE news I watched online last night.

Piney said...

My understanding is that the automatic system was in trials at the time of the crash, this info is from one of my neighbors so I don't know if it is true or not. The son of another neighbor was traveling home from Lanzarote on this train. He was traveling with a group of teachers from Cadiz, all of whom died in the crash. Before the crash, he phoned his mother to inform her that he would be stopping in Santiago with this group for the festival, naturally the whole town assumed him dead until he was able to communicate home. The son survived with a broken arm. The only hospital open at the time of the crash was Hospital Clinico, as the others were closed last week for the summer. Most of the surgeons and doctors were on summer vacation but were all recalled and the other
hospital buildings opened. At one point Clinico had 14 surgery suites operating continuously the first night. A terrible tragedy.

Piney said...

"I'm not clear why/how a train could have an automatic system for part of its journey and then only a non-automatic system once it enters urban areas."
The approach to Santiago uses an older technology and the section where the accident happened is where the modern line transitions to the old line. It is isolated from the high speed line until the Ourense to Medina del Campo is completed.

Perry said...


"where the modern line transitions to the old line."

The high speed line is separated from the single track, but follows its alignment on a completely new track formation. You can conform this using Street view in Google maps. All other previous trains have slowed down in good time before transitioning the 80kph curve & the driver was not inexperienced on this line. It's baffling at present.

Piney said...

"The accident occurred in the transition section between ETCS Level 1, which is used on the 87km Ourense – Santiago high-speed line over which the train had travelled, and the standard Spanish Asfa system used on the conventional network. Santiago is one of dozens of ETCS-Asfa transition points on the Spanish network."