I have been giving the Spanish rail disaster some thought.
It is pretty obvious that the single factor that caused the train to derail was the fact that it was going too fast. Apparently it was travelling at 194km/h on a steep curve where the limit was 80km/h.
Now anyone who knows anything about railways knows that speed limits on rail lines are not just the arbitrary limits imposed on motorists. They are there for the simple reason that to exceed those limits is going to increase the likelihood of “toppling” on a bend or curve. Every train driver knows this an while they might push the envelope slightly, knowing that there are engineered tolerances, they wouldn’t tear into a bend at over twice the limit as they know the inevitable consequences.
So why did an experienced driver apparently ignore the most basic safety principle?
One thing that struck me was the statement that a high-tech automatic braking programme was installed on the track for most of the journey but stops just 5km south of where the crash occurred. Is that not a remarkable coincidence?
I have a very simple theory.
My theory is that the driver knew all about the automatic braking system and that to an extent he was relying on it. My theory is that he was lulled into a false sense of security and was possibly pushing the throttle flat out in the knowledge that the safety system would keep him within limits. However he didn’t know, or he forgot that the safety system cased to exist at a certain point and so he didn’t bother with the limit on the assumption that a non-existent system would take care of it.
If this is the case then it is a perfect example of how so called “safety features” can and do cause the opposite of their intended effect. They encourage people to be reckless. Remove those features and people then become a lot more alert and cautious, knowing that little stands between them and disaster.
It’s not the train driver who should be on trial.
It a society that over relies on the molly-coddling bubble-wrap system that tries to protect us from ourselves.