The tragic train crash in Spain comes soon after the crash in France. Over recent months, there have been crashes on India and China too. In Canada, a freight train exploded!
The history of train crashes is almost as long as that of the railway itself. For all of that period, the causes of crashes have remained more-or-less the same; driver error and mechanical failure.
In Spain, it looks like driver error played a significant part in the crash. The crash happened on a particularly difficult curve where speed limits are specified. This stretch of track is also at the point where two systems of track and signals meet.
Amazingly, the kind of drama associated with both freight explosions and high-speed cornering forms the climax of Tony Scott’s last film, Unstoppable (2010).
Futurewise, we’re obviously working towards a driverless trains and a computer control of the infrastructure – a sort of internet of things in relation to track, points and signals.
It’s a big job to integrate the automated and electronic command systems across the railway network – especially if you conceptualise the network as a pan-continental one.
We’re not really ready for driverless trains anyway; it’s too much like a runaway train. The Freudian anxieties attaching to this would be too great for many passengers.
Work in progress…
In the mean time, let’s spare a thought for the innocent victims of these crashes.