Spanish Train Wreck: 77 Die (Going Too Fast)

"A train derailment near the northwestern Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela killed at least 77 people, the highest death toll in a rail incident since the 2004 Madrid bombing…
The train was traveling at 220 kilometers (140 miles) an hour, while the speed limit was 80 kilometers per hour, Juarez was cited as saying in El Mundo. "

Yipes - almost three times the specified max speed. Hard to imagine how that can happen.

I can. The train was running late (5 minutes) and very likely the driver was trying to “win back” the lost time (apparently Renfe --the train company-- got very serious about trains running late).

(Both driver and co-driver survived the accident; they will have lots of explaining to do, I imagine – reports said that the driver was seen wandering dazed among the post-crash chaos saying “I’ve run off the tracks; I’ve run off the tracks; what am I going to do?”)

Anyway – the driver was going full throttle to make up for lost time, he is “on the groove”, suddenly they reach the outskirts of Santiago where there is a rather serious curve on approach where you have to slow down quite a bit, the driver either forgot the curve was there or reacted too late … And you end up taking an 80 km/h (50 mph) curve at top speed :confused:

What a horrible tragedy. Worst train accident in Spain in 40 years.

Link to the BBC: Dozens die as Spanish train derails in Galicia - BBC News

I don’t know about “getting very serious”, but Renfe has been doing some very strange things with limits since splitting into several companies for different functions (Cercanías, Larga Distancia, ADIF, etc.). Set the same requirements for cable curvature regardless of temp, have the same limits for delays depending on train type regardless of route, punish the drivers for any delay.

While at the moment of the crash the train was five minutes late, it is very common to have delays of half an hour or more in the station before last which get picked back in the last stage (for an Alvia, a delay of half an hour means the customers get a full refund); I haven’t seen any information about how late they’d been in the previous stop. And I’d really like to know how come an AVE route (that is, one where trains are supposed to run at 250km/h) includes that curve. We’re being told that we’re getting AVE or we’re getting AVE for Navarre despite many people being perfectly happy with Alvias (we refer to the ones to Madrid as the “go’n’come back”, because many people do that on the same day) and AVEs being much more expensive for not much less travel time; those works look more like a system to grease palms every time I look at them.

This security camera caught the crash - it’s one of the most incredible pieces of footage I’ve seen for a long time. Horrendous.

That footage looks like something exploded behind the front cab before the front went off the rails.

I thought it looked like that was the second or third car hitting the wall first as it hit the curve.

“Investigators were trying to urgently establish why the train was going so fast and why failsafe security devices to keep speed within permitted limits had not worked.”

Anyone know anything about these “failsafe” security devices?

But that’s like saying “I was running late, so I decided to blast through the red light at 60 mph.” At more than twice the speed limit, a crash is all but certain - and a crashed train rarely arrives on time.

There’s also the point that train speeds are supposed to be subject to a high level of monitoring and control.

It must be possible to disable or override the security devices. I wonder if this is an official feature (for emergencies?), or a “Hey, if I pull this fuse the speed limiter switches off” kinda thing.

Plus if their speed really is monitored, then I imagine the trouble you’d get into for exceeding the max by a factor of three is a lot more severe then the trouble you’d get into for being five minutes late, even if there was no further incident.

I think something must’ve either gone mechanically wrong with the train or mentally wrong with the driver.

There is what looks like an explosion, which I think is caused by the train coupling ripping apart and/or the carriage striking the wall. Remarkably the locomotive seemed to negotiate the curve OK at that speed until it was pulled off the rails by the carriage which derailed behind.

I’ve read that this was a Renfe class 730 train. It is a “hybrid” train that can be powered by electricity from an overhead wire or by diesel generators. The lead locomotive is purely electric, and the car behind it contains the diesel powered generator. (And the same arrangement on the other end as well.) It’s no wonder this car toppled first.

What’s with all the train accidents lately? Are the trains angry that Pixar made a movie about planes instead of trains?

Update: 80 dead. This is now officially the worst train disaster in the history of Spain.

Although the event is a tremendous tragedy, it is somewhat heartwarming to see the reaction of the people in general – the inhabitants of the village where the train crashed reacted immediately, without hesitation, and went en masse to help the victims in whatever way they could; the needs of blood for the hospitals nearby were covered in a matter of minutes after the news were given; the hotels in Santiago gave every room they had free to host both family members of the victims that flocked there and forensic and support workers who were going there to work; many people in Santiago opened their homes to host those who couldn’t find a place to stay; pilgrims to Santiago from all over the world offered their help if they had any kind of technical knowledge (doctors, nursing personnel, mechanics, engineers…).

It is amazing. It gives you hope in mankind.

I’m not an expert, but I’m hearing from people that there are two systems used in Spain; the ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System), and the older Spanish ASFA.

Oh how awful.

Three times the speed limit was no accident. Someone needs to be tried for manslaughter.

Same thing happened outside Osaka, Japan in 2005. The cause was:

It’s automatically monitored, but what that means is that people are trusting the computer to manage things.

While not for Renfe itself, I’ve worked for companies with a similar history; if Renfe’s decision-making works the same way (and from what I hear from colleagues and friends, it does), there’s a lot of money going into $400 toilets and even more going into making sure the proper bidding process to choose the adequate model is being followed.