Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Train Crash; Gibraltar; Politicians; Construction; and Male Members no-nos.

The Train Crash: To no great surprise, the presidents of both RENFE and ADIF, addressing the Spanish parliament, have continued to deny any responsibility, blaming everything on human error. Notwithstanding this, a better safety system is being installed at the scene of the crash and the Minister of Development has revised the speed limits in place there. Stepping back from the detail, I wonder whether a Devil's Advocate is ever used when designing rail tracks - someone who would be paid to imagine in what circumstances a devastating crash might happen. After which, the usual cost-benefit analysis could be done, in which a monetary value is put on human lives, set against the cost of minimising or eliminating risk. Sounds callous but it's done all the time.

Gibraltar: The soap opera continues. El Mundo's predictably alarmist front page headline yesterday was that the UK was sending a fleet of warships to pressurise Spain. The truth is that the activity was planned months ago and has received the OK of the Spanish Government. To El Mundo, however, the failure to cancel it was tantamount to provocation. Well, there's no one more provoked than he who wants to be provoked. The paper goes on to say that David Cameron is aligning himself with the British far right, whoever that is. This is something which El Mundo knows a great deal about, of course. Finally, the paper says that, thanks, to Cameron, Rajoy now can't row back at all, as this would amount to cowardice in Spanish eyes. Exactly the position El Mundo has strained to put him in, of course. Crap journalism. Rajoy's latest statement, by the way, is that Spain reserves the right to continue border checks and Britain should act with "common sense and good judgement". Just like him. You have to laugh.

We know that politicians now rank lower than ever in the esteem of Spaniards. But now comes evidence that their kids feel much the same. Asked about their career aspirations, only 4% of kids opted for politics. Boys saw themselves as sportsmen (mostly footballers), policemen, engineers and doctors. Girls went with teacher, vet, doctor and hairdresser.

If there's anyone more despicable that a drug trafficker, it's a police officer who sells tip-offs (soplos) to them. Sadly, we have 2 of the latter here in Pontevedra, both members of the Gúardia Civil. Let's hope they spend a good deal of time in prison.

Spain in a nutshell? Last year the Spanish Minister of Tourism stayed in a hotel which had been built illegally. Possibly, back then he didn't know it was illegal. But there's no excuse this year, when he's staying in the same place, laughing off any criticism. You wonder whether they ever think about the messages they're sending out.

Talking about Spanish construction, here's the (unusual) tale of an interesting tower.

And here's the latest phase in the life of the huge Ciudad Real vanity project - an international airport for a place of only 75,000 souls - 5,000 fewer than Pontevedra.

A final comment on construction - More than 50% of Spain's Med coast is now classified as over-built. Who'd be surprised?

Finally . . . An uplifting article advising the ten things we males shouldn't do with our members. Written by a female.


Alfred B. Mittington said...

A Devil's advocate... Cost-benefit Analysis... Imagining potential misfortune... Minimizing risk... It all sounds like the P word!

AND on top of that: a Guardia Civil in Jail!!!!

My dear Colin, have you learned NOTHING in your 10 year sejour in Spain???

Your dear friend Al

PS The P word is 'Planning'

Anonymous said...

Colin, Train safety statistics - The Guardian has a good summary - UK figures are very good


You wonder whether a Devil's Advocate is ever used when designing rail tracks. Absolutely, the EC have a regulation.

It makes very dry reading but The "COMMISSION REGULATION (EC) No 352/2009" of 24th April 2009 lays out the risk evaluation systems for railways in all EC member countries. It can be downloaded here

It seems to be about to be updated - Here is a recent slideshow explaining very clearly how rail safety risks are documented and mitigated.

Briefly, for all new rail systems there has to be a document prepared by a team of experts, where they have listed all foreseeable risks and what systems there are in place to mitigate them to an acceptable level. Where the team finds there to be insufficient mitigation it will be listed for action.

Any railway which operated without such a document, or where the risks had not been sufficiently mitigated, would have serious legal consequences to face, even without an incident occurring.


Gib. Thanks for the interesting updates


Benidorm hotel - Richard Rogers puts services on the outside - Get him to fix it. Failing that, there must be one of those cradles for window cleaners. What's the problem?


Empty Ciudad Real Airport - Americans do this too, MidAmerica St. Louis Airport which still has no resident passenger airline.
Ciudad Real cost a whole lot more though.

And then there's Montreal-Mirabel Airport, where you can't actually book a flight into the world's biggest, and almost totally empty, airport. 396 square kilometers in area, Mirabel opened in 1975 (for the 1976 Montreal Olympics) and is easily visible from space. The gargantuan airport hasn't had passenger service for over a decade, handling only cargo traffic. The city has spent 30 years trying to find alternate uses for it. It has been used variously as a Formula 1 racetrack, a Bombardier airplane factory, a movie set, warehouse space, and more. For a while they were even talking about turning into an amusement park. See

There are more, but it's all too depressing.


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