Spain set to revise rail network speed limits

Spain's Minister of Public Works appeared in Parliament on Friday to discuss new rail safety measures for the country.

Spain set to revise rail network speed limits
Spain's Ministry of Works is set to revise speed limits across the country's entire rail network. Screen grab: YouTube

Ana Pastor unveiled proposals including a plan to revise speeds across all of Spain's rail networks.

"We are carrying out a general review of all protocols and all security systems, as well as speed limits. When I say all, it is of the entire railway network," Pastor told a parliamentary panel about the July 24th crash.

"We are analyzing the network. And we will take decisions that improve security based on this analysis," she added.

Protocols for on board communication between train staff will be reviewed after it emerged the driver of the train involved in the Spain crash was using the company phone to speak to the train's conductor just before the crash.

The Ministry for Public Works is also looking at introducing a GPS-style satellite system to enhance track signalling.

Pastor's appearance comes in the wake of parliamentary appearances on Thursday by the head of Spanish national railway company Renfe and the head of the rail infrastructure group Adif.

The section of the track where a train derailed in Spain, killing 79 people, was initially due to be fitted with a security system that automatically slows speeding trains, the head of Adif said during his appearance.

However, the plan was later scrapped because of the type of track at that spot, Gonzalo Ferre, the head of state railway track operator Adif told a parliamentary panel about the July 24 crash.

The system that automatically brakes speeding trains is only used on high-speed tracks but the section where the accident happened was a conventional track, he said.

Therefore, it was fitted with another security system that stops the train only if it is travelling at over 200 kph (125 mph), Ferre said.

The train was going around a bend at 179 kph, more than twice the speed limit, when it leapt off the tracks, a court in Santiago de Compostela which is investigating the crash said last week after analyzing the train's data recording "black boxes".

The driver, 52-year-old Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, has been provisionally charged with 79 counts of reckless homicide. He has been released under court supervision while an investigation into Spain's deadliest rail accident since 1944 continues.

The president of state train company Renfe, Julio Gomez-Pomar, said the crew had not reported any problems with the train before the crash.

"All security procedures were followed correctly," he added.

"We are committed to finding out what caused the accident and we will continue to improve the safety of the Spanish rail system."

Thirty-eight people who were injured in the accident remain in hospital on Thursday, six of them in critical condition, regional health authorities said.

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