Welcome to the new version of European Tribune. It's just a new layout, so everything should work as before - please report bugs here.

[UPDATE 2] Tragic Train Blogging: Santiago train derailment

by Migeru Fri Aug 2nd, 2013 at 09:56:14 PM EST

Shocking numbers from Santiago de Compostela in Spain continue to mount as the hours go by: Over 60 dead and 100-odd injured as train derails in Santiago

The accident took place near 21h barely 2km from the Santiago station, at the junction of A Grandeira. Renfe confirms that an investigation has been opened to determine the causes of the accident, and it's not et confirming that it was caused by excess speed, the hypothesis considered so far.

As told by passengers and witnesses of the accident, the train derailed at the curve of A Grandeira -limited to 80km/h- and one of the cars overturned, the rest derailed, and some of them burst into flames.

Update [2013-7-30 4:19:46 by Migeru]: It appears that the driver has admitted he was "distracted" and was not aware he was going into the last tunnel before Santiago, where he needed to be braking the train from 200km/h down to 80km/h. The ERTMS safety system, which is necessary for safety above 200km/h and can prevent the train from exceeding the speed limit and cannot be overridden by the driver, was by design not installed in the last 7km of the 87-km stretch to Santiago, presumably because the train is supposed to go below 200 on the entire 7-km stretch and ERTMS was seen as "overkill". But this left the line only with the ASFA security system, which can signal to the driver that he's going above the speed limit but requires driver input to slow down the train. Moreover, the last 7km of track before Santiago and in the tunnel just before the curve where the crash took place have a low number of ASFA beacons installed, and they appear to be the older-spec "analog ASFA" and not the newer "digital ASFA". Digital ASFA is used as backup for ERTMS throughout Spain's high-speed network because it can operate at speeds above 200km/h. It also appears the Alvia train hasn't been certified to use ERTMS and/or the ERTMS wasn't fully operational on the day of the crash.

In sum, it looks like there was a combination of four factors (sources below the fold):

  1. the driver had a distraction. At 200km/h it takes 70-90 seconds to traverse the 4-5 km on which the train is supposed to slow down to 80km/h. The driver braked too late if at all.
  2. the Alvia train was not an AVE, it is halfway up from a conventional train, upgraded to run on high-speed track. It is possible that the on-board speed safety system was not certified to use ERMTS because its top speed is lower than regular AVE.
  3. the installed speed safety system on the last 7km of track was done on the cheap, going for fewer analog ASFA beacons as opposed to digital ASFA.
  4. the design of the speed safety system was not fail-safe: excluding ERTMS from the last 7km of track implies the assumption that the train will never enter that stretch above 200km/h.

This looks to be one of Europe's worst rail accidents. Use this as an open thread.


Sources:

  1. RTVE: The driver of the train wrecked in Santiago is freed with charges after admitting negligence (28.07.2013)
  2. Vozpópuli: Alvia: fake high speed with a conventional train's speed control and signalling system (26-07-2013)
    El País: What is the safety system of the Alvia Madrid-Ferrol? (26 July 2013)
    Up to Olmedo (Valladolid) the ERTMS system is active. From then on, ASFA is working. There is an 80km stretch between Ourense and Santiago where ERTMS is deployed. However, RENFE has not certified the system for the Alvia in that section, as confirmed by ADIF desite the fact that Avant middle-distance trains on the sameline do use it. RENFE, asked by this paper, did not clarify why 13 months after hybrid Alvia started rolling there they still don't have that safety. They also did not confirm whether the system is operational on the Avant trains. In any case, and desite the fact that the Alvia would be able to reach 220km/h in parts of the Ourense-Santiago section, it cannot do it because it is monitored by ASFA: the speed limit for any train controlled by that system is 200.
  3. El Diario: The section of the Santiago wreckage has the analog security system from a half-century ago (27/07/2013)
Update [2013-8-2 21:56:14 by Migeru]: Público: Fomento asume que tres balizas habrían evitado el accidente del Alvia (2 August 2013)
Técnicos ferroviarios ya señalaron a Público que con una baliza se habría evitado el accidente. Y Adif, que enseguida culpabilizó al maquinista, se ha apresurado a instalar nuevas balizas en el fatídico tramo durante toda esta semana. Así, "en el punto kilométrico 81/669 Adif instaló el lunes una baliza y un cartelón que limitan la velocidad a 30 km/hora", confirma el comunicado de Fomento. Esta señal está protegida por otra anterior que limita la velocidad a 60 km/hora y, ayer mismo, los responsables de la infraestructura férrea colocaron otra nueva baliza, con su correspondiente "cartelón" a 160 km/hora.

El ASFA Digital, el sistema que ha reforzado Adif esta semana, consiste en un equipo de señalización que, a través de las balizas de aviso y preaviso situadas en las vías del tren, informan al maquinista de la peligrosidad del trazado que se va a encontrar en los kilómetros siguientes. Si el siguiente semáforo está en verde, el conductor del tren tiene vía libre para continuar a la misma velocidad. Si, por el contrario, está en amarillo, la baliza de preaviso emite una señal al tren para que reduzca la velocidad. El conductor debe entonces comunicar que ha recibido el aviso y, al tiempo, frenar para disminuir la velocidad. Si el maquinista no se entera de dicha señal, el siguiente semáforo se pondría en rojo, las balizas de la vía emitirían la señal de peligro al tren y, automáticamente, la máquina se pararía.

Por ello, "la limitación de velocidad de 80 Km/h estipulada para la curva del accidente se podría haber protegido sin necesidad de ERTMS[ European Rail Traffic Managemegent System, el sistema europeo (y moderno) de seguridad ferroviaria]. Habiendo hecho otra configuración de las señales convencionales, el ASFA habría protegido el exceso de velocidad en la curva", señalaron expertos del sector a este diario.

Público: The ministry of public works accepts that three beacons would have prevented the Alvia crash (2 August 2013)
Railroad technicians already pointed out to Público that a single beacon would have prevented the accident. And Adif, which immediately blamed the driver, has hurried to install new beacons in the fateful stretch diring this week. Thus, "at kilometer 81/669 Adif installed Monday one beacon and sign limiting speed to 30km/h", confirms the release from the ministry. This signal is protected by an earlier one limiting speed to 60 km/h and, just yesterday, the rail infrastructure authorities intalled a new beacon, with its associated "placard" at 160 km/h.

Digital ASFA, the system that Adif reinforced this week, consists of a signalling system which, by means of warning and pre-warning beacons, placed on the track, will imform the driver of the danger in the line he will encounter in the following kilometres. If the following light is green, the driver is free to continue at the same speed. if it is yellow, the pre-warning beacon emits a sends a signal to the train to reduce its speed. The driver muct communicate that he has received the warning and, at the same time, brake to slow down. If the driver misses the signal the next light will be set red, track beacons will emit a danger signal, and the engine will stop automaticaly.

Thus, "the 80 Km/h speed limit stipulated for the accident curve could have been protected without ERTMS[ European Rail Traffic Managemegent System, the (modern) European rail safety system]. With a different configuration of conventional ignals, the ASFA could have protected the speed excess on the curve", sector experts told this paper.

Better late than never. Now we'll see what the outcome of the court case is. The driver shouldn't be assigned full responsibility for the crash.

Display:
Looks similar to the Amagasaki train crash of 2005.
by das monde on Thu Jul 25th, 2013 at 01:39:28 AM EST
From Amagasaki:
Investigators speculate that the driver may have been attempting to make up this lost time by increasing the train's speed beyond customary limits. Many reports from surviving passengers indicate that the train was travelling faster than normal. Plus, the driver might have been stressed because he would be punished both for having passed by a red light and for having overshot the platform at Itami Station. Ten months before the crash, the same driver had been reprimanded for overshooting a station by 100 meters. At the time of the disaster, he might have been thinking of the punishment he would face, and not totally focused on driving.
In the case of the Spanish crash, the press are quoting single phrase reportedly from radio cummunications between the drivers and control, moments before the accident. The driver is supposed to have said "we're going at 190, we're going to derail". What is not reported is what the control was telling the driver before and after this, when it's supposedly "a conversation".

So, the official narrative is already that this was a driver error. What I want to know is that the driver was not being pressured to make up for a 5-minute delay to avoid passenger ticket reimbursements for late arrival.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 25th, 2013 at 08:02:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
French radio says the count is now at 77 dead.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jul 25th, 2013 at 01:44:28 AM EST
That's 1/3 of the people on board...

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 25th, 2013 at 03:19:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Google Trans hashes this up too much for me to set straight:

El conductor del accidente de Santiago: "¡Somos humanos, somos humanos!" | Política | EL PAÍS

Uno de los maquinistas del tren Alvia que descarriló ayer en Santiago de Compostela quedó atrapado tras el accidente en la cabina del convoy. A través de la radio con la que se comunica con la estación, cuando aún no sabía siquiera si había fallecidos, hizo un relato de lo que acababa de suceder. Expresó que le dolía la espalda y las costillas y que no podía salir. "¡Somos humanos! ¡Somos humanos!", repetía. "Espero que no haya muertos porque caerán sobre mi conciencia". El conductor dijo que el tren había tomado la curva a 190 kilómetros por hora; después habló de 200, pero luego volvió a decir que, al entrar en la curva, el tren iba a 190 kilómetros por hora, según explicaron ayer a EL PAÍS fuentes de la investigación.

Las señales ferroviarias de la zona del siniestro no permiten sobrepasar los 80 kilómetros por hora, pero el conductor no precisó por qué el tren circulaba al doble de esa velocidad. Si se trató de un fallo técnico o de un fallo humano es algo que tendrá aún que determinarse en la investigación de las causas del siniestro. Pero, a tenor de lo expuesto por el conductor, el tren, que venía de circular a una gran velocidad --superando los 200 kilómetros por hora--, no frenó lo suficiente y duplicó la velocidad permitida en una curva muy complicada y muy cerrada. Fue justo en ese lugar y en ese momento cuando el tren acabó descarrilando y provocando decenas de muertos.

One of the drivers, stuck in the cabin after the accident, said on the radio connection with the station that the train was going at 190 km/h, when the normal speed limit is 80 km/h.

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jul 25th, 2013 at 03:50:56 AM EST
Apparently, this is the first hard bend after 80km on high-speed line. That means that the train must slow down from 200km/h to 80km/h in order to take the curve. When the AVE line from Madrid to Galicia was designed, it alternated sections of high-speed specification with slower segments. According to the article "in order to limit the extent of the expropriations" for the right-of-way.
La alternancia de tramos de AVE y de tramos de vía convencional o de inferiores características se reproduce en otros puntos de la vía. El Alvia que circula entre Madrid y Ferrol, el tren más rápido que transita por Santiago, viaja por distintos trazados. Entre Madrid y Olmedo (Valladolid) aprovecha la línea del AVE. Después, entre Olmedo y Ourense vuelve a circular por una vía convencional, a la espera de que se terminen las obras del AVE que ya están en marcha. Finalmente, entre Ourense y Ferrol se incorpora de nuevo a la línea del AVE, que a la entrada de Santiago discurre junto a la vía antigua.

El tramo no cuenta con el sistema que impide rebasar la velocidad máxima
En ese momento, el tren debe frenar y al llegar a la curva cerrada donde tuvo lugar el accidente, dejar la velocidad en solo 80 kilómetros por hora. El descenso de velocidad en ese punto es muy pronunciado: se pasa de 200 kilómetros por hora a 80 en un corto lapso de tiempo.

Las causas del exceso de velocidad todavía no se conocen. La línea donde se produjo el accidente no está dentro del ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System), un sistema de gestión del tráfico ferroviario que impide que un tren rebase la velocidad máxima establecida o no obedezca las señales que indican parada, muy similar a los sistemas de alarma automáticos ya instalados en muchos países europeos. Este sistema es el implantado, por ejemplo, en la línea de AVE Madrid-Barcelona en octubre de 2011.

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 accient occurred is stil 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.



Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 25th, 2013 at 04:38:37 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The causes of the excessive speed are still not known.

The proximate cause is not known ... the ultimate cause is stated immediately after:

The line where the accient occurred is stil 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, ...



I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Fri Jul 26th, 2013 at 12:31:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Today is the Day if Santiago and the National Day of Galicia. 7 days of official mourning have been declared by the regional government.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 25th, 2013 at 05:27:27 AM EST
There is a tragedy like this, on Spanish roads, every 40 days or approx...
by cagatacos on Thu Jul 25th, 2013 at 07:10:31 AM EST
Small wonder I feel a lot safer in Europe, Germany particularly, than in the USA.

'tis strange I should be old and neither wise nor valiant. From "The Maid's Tragedy" by Beaumont & Fletcher
by Wife of Bath (kareninaustin at g mail dot com) on Sat Jul 27th, 2013 at 12:18:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]

by Bjinse on Thu Jul 25th, 2013 at 07:38:42 AM EST
Youtube took it down as "disgusting and shocking". You can see footage here.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jul 25th, 2013 at 07:42:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Railway writer Christina Wolmar was on Channel 4 News saying that the curve where the crash happened is not part of the high speed line and is not equipped with an automatic train protection system that can automatically stop a speeding train.

Video should be online after the programme is over.

by Gag Halfrunt on Thu Jul 25th, 2013 at 02:35:00 PM EST
When I saw this news, and they started talking about costcutting in the repair of rails being a probable cause....... my first thought was this is what austerity looks like.  AFAIK RENFE is still majority state owned, and has undoubtedly been told to cut costs as part of the general push for austerity.  

This and the ongoing Barcenas mess.... certainly looks like Rajoy could easily be replaced by his deputy Saez Santamaria.  The present looks a lot the scandals that brought down PSOE for a decade in the 1990s.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sat Jul 27th, 2013 at 07:42:21 PM EST
The present looks a lot the scandals that brought down PSOE for a decade in the 1990s.

That is a happy thought! It would be nice if IU got a big bump in seats while PP & PSOE went down in their shares.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Jul 28th, 2013 at 12:24:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It doesn't look like poor maintenance was an issue in this case, but who knows.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 28th, 2013 at 04:53:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That was what I had heard blamed on CNN, but that's been a while back.

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg
by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Jul 28th, 2013 at 11:39:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
...was my first instinct, but it doesn't look to be the case.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 29th, 2013 at 02:32:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe you want to compose a diary about Rajoy's succession? Here are some sources:

Vozpópuli: The eyes of the PP turn to Santamaría and Gallardón in case Rajoy were forced to resign

Hispanidad: Cospedal warns: Soraya betrays Rajoy

Diario Crítico: Gallardón comes out in defence of Rajoy after Soraya's warning

As you can see, not the most credible of sources (yet). I don't know where Spiegel sourced their story: Rajoy's Successor? The Most Powerful Woman in Spanish Politics but they are the highest-impact media to have talked about this. See also my own diary about Soraya: The brain in Spain's new government (December 24th, 2011).

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 28th, 2013 at 05:09:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Want... probably.... have time to....  not so much.  

New job, still trying to finish dissertation, taking care of sick family.  Ugh....

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Sun Jul 28th, 2013 at 11:38:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I may do it if you don't do it first, but it would be nice to have a different perspective on this...

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Jul 29th, 2013 at 04:33:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
El Diario: El accidente del Alvia podría haberse evitado con una baliza de 6.000 euros (27/07/2013)
Estas fuentes indicaron que no existe en toda la red española otro tramo en el que se obligue a los trenes a bajar de 200 a 80 kilómetros por hora de velocidad. Esta drástica reducción de la velocidad se ve además agravada por el hecho de que la operación está "desastrosamente mal señalizada" con dos señales de Asfa Analógico, un cartel indicador y un libro de abordo, lo que deja en las exclusivas manos del maquinista la realización de un frenado muy drástico sin ofrecer ningún soporte tecnológico alternativo para evitar las fatales consecuencias de un error humano.

...

El presidente de Adif, Gonzalo Ferre, en declaraciones a la Agencia Efe ha mantenido una postura completamente diferente, que coincide con la de su portavoz oficial. Señala que en los cuatro kilómetros fatídicos no se puede contar con una señalización distinta del Asfa Analógio, y que además, esta es más que adecuada.

...

Pese a la información oficial ofrecida por Adif de que las balizas de vía del Asfa Digital están todavía en desarrollo, todas las fuentes consultadas han corroborado que este sistema está plenamente operativo como sistema de apoyo en todas las líneas de alta velocidad, en el Corredor Mediterráneo y en muchos tramos de la propia línea entre Madrid y A Coruña, donde se produjo el siniestro.

The accident of the Alvia could have been prevented with a €6k beacon (27/07/2013)
[Engineering] sources pointed out that in the Spanish network there is no other point requiring trains to slow down from 200 to 80km/h. This drastic speed reduction is made worse by the fact that the operation is "disastrously badly signalled" by two analog ASFA signals, an indication sign, and the driver's handbook, which leaves in the hands of the driver the execution of a drastic braking without offering any alternate technological support to avoid the fatal consequences of a human error.

...

The CEO of ADIF, Gonzalo Ferre, speaking to Agencia Efe has kept a contrary position, consistent with that of his official spokesperson. He claims int he fatal 4km no signalling different from analog ASFA is available and, moreover, this is more than adequate.

...

Despite the information given by ADIF that digital ASFA beacons are in development, all sources consulted comfirmed that this system is fully operational as a support system in all high-speed lines, on the Mediterranean Corridor, and in many segments to the line between Madrid and A Coruña itself, where the accident took place.

(See wiki on ASFA)

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 28th, 2013 at 04:52:53 AM EST
Spanish train crash driver wrote on Facebook about high speed - reports | World news | guardian.co.uk
"What a blast it would be to go parallel with the Guardia Civil [Spanish police] and go past them triggering the radar. Haha what a fine for Renfe [Spanish rail operator] haha," he allegedly wrote.

speed junkie?

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Jul 28th, 2013 at 07:24:05 AM EST
No, crap journalistic "research" on social media.

El País: Los compañeros del maquinista del tren de Santiago alaban su prudencia como conductor de trenes (26 Jul 2013)

"Le doy 50 euros por cada persona que me traiga que hable mal de él". La imagen de Francisco Garzón que se ha construido, la de un conductor irresponsable que presume en su Facebook de la velocidad que alcanza con su vehículo, no es la que tienen sus compañeros de trabajo ni sus vecinos. Más bien es la contraria. En lo personal y en lo profesional. El amigo que está dispuesto a dilapidar el salario de maquinista de Renfe a cambio de que le presenten enemigos del conductor del Alvia justifica hasta la ya famosa imagen volcada en su perfil social con el velocímetro a 200 km/h: "¿De qué se escandalizan? Es la velocidad a la que tiene que ir el tren".
Coworkers of the Santiago train driver praise his prudence as a train driver (26 July 2013)
"I give you 50 euros for each person you bring me who speaks ill of him". The constructed image of Francisco Garzón, that of an irresponsible driver who boasts on Facebook about the speed of his vehicle, is not that of his coworkers or neighbours. Rather the opposite. On personal and professional matters. The friend who's willing to give up his Renfe driver salary to meet alleged enemies of the Alvia driver even justifies the infamous image from his social profile with the speedometer at 200 km/h: "Where's the scandal? That's the speed the train is supposed to go at".


Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Jul 28th, 2013 at 08:45:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll add links for the information in the update later. Now for your comments.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 30th, 2013 at 04:20:57 AM EST
Judging by the update, you have to say that this was an accident waiting to happen.

In this case I am sure that "human error" will be the scapegoat, but it seems to me that if you have a human driving that particular stretch enough times, then eventually they will miss the braking point.

One wonders for instance, how blame would be placed if he had had a seizure rather than apparently making a mistake? There seems to have been little in the way of backup safeguards.

My own experience of driving at 200km/h on the road suggests to me that things happen pretty quickly at that speed - you can miss a lot in a small amount of distraction.

by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Jul 30th, 2013 at 04:52:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
if you have a human driving that particular stretch enough times, then eventually they will miss the braking point.

This was reportedly the 60th time this driver drove on that line.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 30th, 2013 at 06:27:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And could well be the first that he answered a phone call from control at that point in the route.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Jul 30th, 2013 at 05:48:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
200km/h = 56m/s, of course things happen quickly at that speed.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 30th, 2013 at 06:33:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The decision to exclude ERMTS 2 from the last kilometres was what killed those people. The way such decisions are reached needs to be thoroughly reformed. It needs to be safe. Regulation of the process on a European level would seem appropriate, because I want to feel safe on European trains.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Tue Jul 30th, 2013 at 05:00:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Technical nitpicking: ERTMS is an umbrella term for the train control system (ETCS) and communications (GSM-R), it's ETCS which has levels, and ETCS L1 would have been enough, or apparently even ASFA Digital.

On your main point, I agree, but will put it more focused:

  1. Existing strong European regulation on infrastructure is only mandatory for international routes. It would be good to force infrastructure managers to apply at least as high standards on national routes, too (albeit this wouldn't be sensible without extra financial support for retrofits).
  2. What one should think through is rules for temporary solutions. As I wrote in a comment downthread, what made both the line and the train special was a temporary solution to bring high-speed service to the province of Galicia before construction of the full line from Madrid is finished. There are other examples of part-built lines being opened with lower-level technology, where the risks can be higher than on a line built entirely to the lower standards.

Of course, the part of the problem that is cost-cutting can't be solved by legislation only. In that respect the Santiago disaster reminds me of the Eschede disaster in Germany, which happened on a conventional line upgraded for 200 km/h, and could have been prevented or made much less serious by any one of a number of high-tech details which were cost-saved (air springs, on-bard diagnostics, pillar-less overpasses, high-speed switches).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Aug 2nd, 2013 at 05:08:22 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I also added what was wrong with the trainset. So: my argument is that there were faults with the design of the speed safety system, with the implementation of the speed safety system, with the trainset, and with the driver.

As it should be: no accident is singly determined.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 30th, 2013 at 06:45:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, and I have seen no indication that maintenance was poor.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 30th, 2013 at 08:03:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I quoted that section and your translation of excerpts from the ASFA beacon story in an update to this week's Sunday Train on the derailment and transport safety.

Voices on the Square: 'The Santiago Train Derailment Could Have Been Prevented with a Euro 6,000 beacon'

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Jul 30th, 2013 at 01:52:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wait 'til you hear why the driver was distracted.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 30th, 2013 at 03:42:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
El País: El maquinista hablaba por teléfono con Renfe cuando el tren descarriló (30 Jul 2013)
Del audio almacenado en las cajas negras, y cuya información fue volcada esta mañana en presencia de la policía científica y del juez titular del número 3 de instrucción, Luis Aláez, se ha podido saber también que el maquinista estaba hablando por teléfono con personal de Renfe, que parece ser un controlador, en el momento del siniestro. Minutos antes de la salida de vía recibió una llamada en su teléfono profesional para indicarle el camino que tenía que seguir al llegar a Ferrol. Del contenido de la conversación y por el ruido de fondo parece que el maquinista consulta un plano o algún documento similar en papel.
El Pais: The driver was talking on the phone with Renfe when the train derailed (30 July 2013)
From the audio recorded by the black boxes, and whose information was extracted this morning in the presence of forensic police and the investigtive judge of the 3rd court Luis Aláez, it has been known that the driver was speaking on the phone with Renfe personnel, apparently a controlles, at the time of the accident. Minutes before the derailment he received a phone call on his professional phone to indicate to him the route he must follow on arriving to Ferrol. From the content of the conversation and the background noise it appears that the driver was consulting a map or a similar document in hardcopy.


Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 30th, 2013 at 04:30:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Initially, ABC tweeted that the driver "was on the phone" without saying with whom. Now, they have the following headline: Renfe recommends to their drivers to suppress conversations at "critical points". So now the narrative is going to be that the driver violated the driver's handbook by answering a call from the control room.

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 30th, 2013 at 04:34:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
On the day of the crash, Renfe had leaked to the press that the driver "had called control" before the crash and had said "I'm going 190, I'm going to derail". Then later thee CEO of Renfe said in an interview that the conversation had taken place after the crash.

I distribute. You re-distribute. He gives your hard-earned money to lazy scroungers. -- JakeS
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jul 30th, 2013 at 04:36:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yikes.
Talk about multiple failure modes.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Jul 31st, 2013 at 07:02:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Now it appears that the driver was answering a call from the controller on board the same train...

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jul 31st, 2013 at 12:19:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman once surmised, and I paraphrase, that disasters generally occur because a number of things simultaneously go wrong.

This seems a case of flawed design with horrendous results. I'm mostly shocked to find out that there exist (parts of) high-speed rail routes left without ERTMS, particularly those high-speed rails that are fairly new.

Thanks for these updates.

by Bjinse on Tue Jul 30th, 2013 at 07:05:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a rule of thumb I learned caving: it's the third thing to go wrong that kills you. I'm pretty sure it's a widely used rule.

When several things have already gone wrong by design you're asking for trouble.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jul 30th, 2013 at 07:08:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This accident happened on the first day of my holiday, I saw it on TV news right after switching it on in the hotel in the evening...

The short news I caught later invariably blamed the locomotive driver only, as if a proper train control system shouldn't have prevented it. However, neither the line nor the train were normal, and I think I can add/correct details in the diary with these:

  • The Ourense–Santiago line is an isolated section of the Madrid–Galicia high-speed line (with the parts in-between in construction) which was temporarily opened with reduced-spec infrastructure: broad-gauge tracks (prepared for fast re-gauging), lower top speed and consequently scaled-down train control systems. (Also see my recent overview of the state of Spain's high-speed network.)
  • The train is not a conventional train upgraded to run on high-speed track, but a version of an existing gauge-changing semi-high-speed train which got an additional car housing a diesel motor, so that it can travel on the non-electrified old line between Olmedo and Ourense. It was a quick fix solution built and put into operation very fast, pointing to a less than thorough certification, which made me think of the possibility of multiple brake failure, but lack of ERTMS/ETCS certification is a much simpler consequence.

(Apologies if these details appear in the comments, I only read the diary so far.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Aug 2nd, 2013 at 04:37:00 PM EST
Thanks, I was wondering where you were...

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 2nd, 2013 at 06:57:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I found some Salon news on those hybrid trains from two years ago when the first was rolled out.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Sat Aug 3rd, 2013 at 03:57:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Incidentally, on my holiday in Switzerland, I observed two times that a bus driver began to drive on a mountain road while still handling the tablet for selling tickets or his official paperwork. I was pretty shocked.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Aug 2nd, 2013 at 05:17:00 PM EST
Those are the most expensive three beacons in the whole of Spain...

Finance is the brain [tumour] of the economy
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 2nd, 2013 at 09:57:25 PM EST
Hopefully this will also result in a re-thinking of the temporary train control system to be installed along similar 'half-built' high-speed lines to be opened in the next few years: the Pajares cutoff (route to Oviedo and Gijón) and the line in Extramadura. Unlike the line in Galicia, these will be finished as isolated sections due to austerity, and will stay so for the foreseeable future for the same reason.

An existing section that may need some review is the dual-gauge line between Zaragoza and Huesca.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Aug 4th, 2013 at 02:43:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Better late than never. Now we'll see what the outcome of the court case is. The driver shouldn't be assigned full responsibility for the crash.

Indeed.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sat Aug 3rd, 2013 at 03:43:32 AM EST
There is an 80km stretch between Ourense and Santiago where ERTMS is deployed. However, RENFE has not certified the system for the Alvia in that section, as confirmed by ADIF desite the fact that Avant middle-distance trains on the sameline do use it. RENFE, asked by this paper, did not clarify why 13 months after hybrid Alvia started rolling there they still don't have that safety.

I found they gave an explanation later:

RENFE elaborates on ERTMS L1 problems with Alvia between Ourense and Santiago | ERTMS News

President of RENFE, Julio Gómez-Pomar, elaborated on the ERTMS problems of Alvia. He says that "on the hybrid trains S730 (formerly S130) we started to install the more advanced version of ERTMS. On the Madrid-Galicia line there are two sections that have ERTMS: Madrid-Olmedo (Valladolid) and Ourense-Santiago. When we started testing we saw that there were problems on both sections which we call transition failures: ERTMS ordered a brake intervention when the system was not supposed to do so. On the section Madrid-Olmedo the problem was eventually solved and the trains work fine with ERTMS now. But on the Ourense-Santiago section the problem persisted. We talked to the suppliers Bombardier to fix the problem. In the mean time, Adif authorized to disconnected ERTMS on that section and use ASFA to a maximum speed of 200 km/h. This is normal procedure.

Gah, so it was not strictly a problem of the hybrid train, but teething problems of [the software of?] the ETCS equipment programmed for the latest upgrade of the standard. (At any rate, it doesn't look like running on ETCS would have prevented the disaster on the non-ETCS section.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Sun Aug 4th, 2013 at 02:53:31 AM EST


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]