Spanish train driver charged over rail disaster

 

News article: Spanish train driver charged over rail disaster

A train driver suspected of causing Spain's worst rail disaster for decades has been charged with 79 counts of reckless homicide and freed on bail.

  JimYarin Chief Commissioner

Location: Adelaide, South Australia
A train driver suspected of causing Spain's worst rail disaster for decades has been charged with 79 counts of reckless homicide and freed on bail.

Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, 52, was taken to court on Sunday night and formally accused by an investigating judge of causing Wednesday's derailment just outside the city of Santiago de Compostela.

Meanwhile, one of the 168 passengers injured in the crash died in a Santiago hospital today, taking the death toll to 79.
Spanish train driver charged over rail disaster


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What was this guy thinking when we was driving this train.  He is a long serving driver who should have known better.

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  nswtrains Chief Commissioner

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What was this guy thinking when we was driving this train.  He is a long serving driver who should have known better.
JimYarin
Making comments without knowledge of the full facts is not really welcome. Today I heard on the news that a train controller had rung the driver on his works mobile to discuss a route variation. Being distracted for the time it took to take the call may have been the catalyst for this terrible wreck. So the moral of the story is not to condemn the driver so quickly as he might just have a plausible excuse or at least share responsibility with another party.
  Matruck Junior Train Controller

Location: Lilliput,Victoria
Making comments without knowledge of the full facts is not really welcome. Today I heard on the news that a train controller had rung the driver on his works mobile to discuss a route variation. Being distracted for the time it took to take the call may have been the catalyst for this terrible wreck. So the moral of the story is not to condemn the driver so quickly as he might just have a plausible excuse or at least share responsibility with another party.
nswtrains
Did he have to walk to the back of the train to take the call and this is why he was distracted for so long ?.
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
Making comments without knowledge of the full facts is not really welcome. Today I heard on the news that a train controller had rung the driver on his works mobile to discuss a route variation. Being distracted for the time it took to take the call may have been the catalyst for this terrible wreck. So the moral of the story is not to condemn the driver so quickly as he might just have a plausible excuse or at least share responsibility with another party.
nswtrains

I don't buy that. A train driver on a telephone is a worse scenario than a car driver on a phone. Perhaps you can explain why we are fined if we use a mobile while in a car and yet it is OK for a train driver with the responsibility for hundreds of passengers to use a mobile.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
I don't buy that. A train driver on a telephone is a worse scenario than a car driver on a phone. Perhaps you can explain why we are fined if we use a mobile while in a car and yet it is OK for a train driver with the responsibility for hundreds of passengers to use a mobile.
TheBlacksmith
What aspect specifically "don't you buy"?  That he was on the phone for work purposes?  That being on the phone can be distracting?
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
What I don't buy is:

'So the moral of the story is not to condemn the driver so quickly as he might just have a plausible excuse or at least share responsibility with another party.'


if it relates to him being on the phone. It does not matter whether you are a car or train driver, the use of a phone while driving is considered dangerous. And it does not matter if the rail company was on the phone to him either, the result is the same.

Was the driver the only person in the cab, or was there a driver's assistant? If there was an assistant, then he should have been handling the communications, as the co-pilot or First officer on an aircraft does.

If the driver was on the phone, then I do not believe anyone else has a share of the responsibility, the driver should not be taking a phone call while driving.
  Matruck Junior Train Controller

Location: Lilliput,Victoria
What I don't buy is:

'So the moral of the story is not to condemn the driver so quickly as he might just have a plausible excuse or at least share responsibility with another party.'


if it relates to him being on the phone. It does not matter whether you are a car or train driver, the use of a phone while driving is considered dangerous. And it does not matter if the rail company was on the phone to him either, the result is the same.

Was the driver the only person in the cab, or was there a driver's assistant? If there was an assistant, then he should have been handling the communications, as the co-pilot or First officer on an aircraft does.

If the driver was on the phone, then I do not believe anyone else has a share of the responsibility, the driver should not be taking a phone call while driving.
TheBlacksmith
I take they still have phone's in the Loco's ?, If so without a second person on board how would the driver be able to communicate with others  Train Control,Signaller's etc. Not diminishing the Train Drivers job here in anyway but surely he would still be able to communicate whilst still driving even if with a hands free unit. Police,Taxi Drivers,Truck Drivers still use CB's/UHF's which i'm sure with time will be made illegal. To say he was distracted whilst on the phone just sounds like a lame excuse pretty much like those who say " I didn't see the red flashing lights or hear the bell's or see the boom gate with red flashing lights on it directly in front of me "
  Gwiwer Rt Hon Gentleman and Ghost of Oliver Bulleid

Location: Loitering in darkest Somewhere
It is normal in some places for a controller to make a telephone call to a train driver.  It is the driver's responsibility to maintain safety at all times and therefore to decide whether or when to answer the call.

Train driving requires high skill but a different degree of concentration to motoring.  The road ahead is not shared with hundreds of unpredictable and unregulated others.  It is managed - often still signalled by physical means or otherwise electronically - and only one train should normally be in one section at a time.  Failure to maintain vigilance and in many cases now to act according to predetermined conditions to control the train will result in an emergency brake application being made by the fail-safe train systems.

The legal process will determine the outcome for the driver.  He should not be judged by Railpagers.  He might, for all we know, have been acting entirely properly within the rules if he was speaking with a line controller.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
What I don't buy is:

'So the moral of the story is not to condemn the driver so quickly as he might just have a plausible excuse or at least share responsibility with another party.'


if it relates to him being on the phone. It does not matter whether you are a car or train driver, the use of a phone while driving is considered dangerous. And it does not matter if the rail company was on the phone to him either, the result is the same.

Was the driver the only person in the cab, or was there a driver's assistant? If there was an assistant, then he should have been handling the communications, as the co-pilot or First officer on an aircraft does.

If the driver was on the phone, then I do not believe anyone else has a share of the responsibility, the driver should not be taking a phone call while driving.
TheBlacksmith
I agree pretty much with what Gwiver has written.

The distraction potential associated with communication is more or less the same regardless of the medium, so how do you propose that train controllers communicate to drivers?  Communication between train control and drivers is part of the safety system, you can't just ban it outright.
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
It is normal in some places for a controller to make a telephone call to a train driver.  It is the driver's responsibility to maintain safety at all times and therefore to decide whether or when to answer the call.

Train driving requires high skill but a different degree of concentration to motoring.  The road ahead is not shared with hundreds of unpredictable and unregulated others.  It is managed - often still signalled by physical means or otherwise electronically - and only one train should normally be in one section at a time.  Failure to maintain vigilance and in many cases now to act according to predetermined conditions to control the train will result in an emergency brake application being made by the fail-safe train systems.

The legal process will determine the outcome for the driver.  He should not be judged by Railpagers.  He might, for all we know, have been acting entirely properly within the rules if he was speaking with a line controller.
Gwiwer

I am not judging the train driver. It was reported that he 'may have been on the telephone conversing with the train controller'.

If that is the case, then in my opinion, it is an unsafe practice for the driver of a high speed train.
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
I agree pretty much with what Gwiver has written.

The distraction potential associated with communication is more or less the same regardless of the medium, so how do you propose that train controllers communicate to drivers?  Communication between train control and drivers is part of the safety system, you can't just ban it outright.
donttellmywife

As far as I am aware, our Cairns Tilt Train has two drivers up front, one can handle communications while the other drives. And it does not run as fast as the Spanish train.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
As far as I am aware, our Cairns Tilt Train has two drivers up front, one can handle communications while the other drives. And it does not run as fast as the Spanish train.
TheBlacksmith
The tilt train that derailed a few years back, with driver and observer, because the driver became disoriented and lost track of where they were on the line and went into a low speed curve after a high speed section?  I'm really not sure that's a good example!
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
The tilt train that derailed a few years back, with driver and observer, because the driver became disoriented and lost track of where they were on the line and went into a low speed curve after a high speed section?  I'm really not sure that's a good example!
donttellmywife

And a Boeing 747 crashed 'some years' ago 'somewhere'. So we should not compare to what happened on one of those?

My point here is that if the driver was taking a phone call from the controller while he was driving, then that is a bad practice. If it is good enough to have a law that prohibits car drivers from using a phone while driving, then it goes double for a train carrying several hundred passengers at several hundred kilometres and hour.

And if it is considered good practice to have a co-pilot to handle the majority of communications in an aircraft carrying several hundred people doing several hundred kilometres an hour.. then the same should apply to the train. There has been no mention of two drivers on this system in Spain, but it seems that as it has not been mentioned, that there was probably only one driver.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
There is a world of difference between "If the driver was on the phone, then I do not believe anyone else has a share of the responsibility" and "talking on a phone is bad practice"!

The Berajondo accident, to me, highlights that having a second person, on its own (i.e. perhaps without some strict requirements on the role of that second person) is an incomplete solution to the risk associated with drivers becoming distracted/disoriented, in the general case.  As I mentioned in the other thread, it is not the only example, this isn't the once in a million years type of scenario.  There are many reasons why a driver might become distracted/disoriented, the possibility of inopportune communication is just one.  

Not wanting to sound callous, but if the potential plausible consequence of such a distraction is a freight train (or passenger train even) going off the rails (perhaps at a derail) at relatively low speed you might accept that risk.  Historically, we have.  If the plausible consequence is that you might run a train load of people into a concrete wall at speeds approaching 200 km per hour, then perhaps your decision is different.  Again, not wanting to sound callous, but a decision about what controls you might put in place to manage that risk would need to consider things like the cost of the control against the likelihood and severity of the possible outcomes.  Fifty years ago the cost of control may have been exorbitant, today maybe not so.  

Rightly or wrongly, a decision on this for that system was made at some stage and that decision almost certainly did not involve the driver (so he cannot be held responsible for it).  Other aspects, like track and rolling stock design come into play too, in terms of the likelihood and outcome - the driver is unlikely to have been involved in those either.  Even if he was on the phone, pinning him as being solely responsible is far too simplistic.
  TheBlacksmith Chief Commissioner

Location: Ankh Morpork
There is a world of difference between "If the driver was on the phone, then I do not believe anyone else has a share of the responsibility" and "talking on a phone is bad practice"!

The Berajondo accident, to me, highlights that having a second person, on its own (i.e. perhaps without some strict requirements on the role of that second person) is an incomplete solution to the risk associated with drivers becoming distracted/disoriented, in the general case.  As I mentioned in the other thread, it is not the only example, this isn't the once in a million years type of scenario.  There are many reasons why a driver might become distracted/disoriented, the possibility of inopportune communication is just one.  

Not wanting to sound callous, but if the potential plausible consequence of such a distraction is a freight train (or passenger train even) going off the rails (perhaps at a derail) at relatively low speed you might accept that risk.  Historically, we have.  If the plausible consequence is that you might run a train load of people into a concrete wall at speeds approaching 200 km per hour, then perhaps your decision is different.  Again, not wanting to sound callous, but a decision about what controls you might put in place to manage that risk would need to consider things like the cost of the control against the likelihood and severity of the possible outcomes.  Fifty years ago the cost of control may have been exorbitant, today maybe not so.  

Rightly or wrongly, a decision on this for that system was made at some stage and that decision almost certainly did not involve the driver (so he cannot be held responsible for it).  Other aspects, like track and rolling stock design come into play too, in terms of the likelihood and outcome - the driver is unlikely to have been involved in those either.  Even if he was on the phone, pinning him as being solely responsible is far too simplistic.
donttellmywife
Perhaps you might like to read my posts again in order to properly comprehend what I said, I did not say anything about 'pinning him as being solely responsible'.

What I said is that if he was permitted to answer the phone while driving, then that is a bad practice. Period. If the Spanish rail authorities think it is good practice to telephone a driver while he is driving, then that is again bad practice.

Perhaps you could explain why driving a train while talking on the phone is OK while it is a an offence under the road traffic act in Australia?

And why is it OK to only have one driver up front when airlines have to have two?
  cootanee Chief Commissioner

Location: Waiting for the sky to fall, the seas to rise... and seeing a train on the SSFL!
...
Perhaps you could explain why driving a train while talking on the phone is OK while it is a an offence under the road traffic act in Australia?

And why is it OK to only have one driver up front when airlines have to have two?
TheBlacksmith

I guess it helps that you don't have to steer a train when taking a mobile call (or using a radio). Texting on the other hand means eyes elsewhere.

Airliners have two crew up front...

1. To share the workload which is considerably more on takeoff/landing and an emergency that a train's. They even had 3 when you also needed a flight engineer.

2. In case one was incapacitated. Assuming a working deadman mechanism the train should come to controlled stop. The plane stops when it hits the ground.

Where trains have two crew you can still have this http://www.atsb.gov.au/media/805912/rair1998001.pdf

There is probably more here than the driver being momentarily distracted by talking on a phone.
  donttellmywife Chief Commissioner

Location: Antofagasta
Perhaps you might like to read my posts again in order to properly comprehend what I said, I did not say anything about 'pinning him as being solely responsible'.
TheBlacksmith
"If the driver was on the phone, then I do not believe anyone else has a share of the responsibility"

If you do not believe anyone else has a share of the responsibility, then that means you believe the driver has all the responsibility!  How else am I supposed to read that?
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

What I think this really highlights is the problem with starting a crash investigation from the point of view of determining who is culpable and how much.

That in itself is part of the problem, and I dare say probably a contributing factor in this case.  

If you work in an environment where safety is policed under threat of criminal prosecution, no-one is going to do *anything* contributing to safety beyond their immediate field of responsibility - lest what they do proves inadequate and they wind up before the inquisition.

Just a guess of course, but it seems in this case responsibility for signalling infrastructure was probably split across two perway divisions: high speed and conventional.  Both probably have adequate infrastructure in place to ensure safe operation on their sections of perway, but neither assumed responsibility for nor implemented appropriate measures to protect the transition.  But that's OK, the driver can take the fall when things go pear shaped.
  cootanee Chief Commissioner

Location: Waiting for the sky to fall, the seas to rise... and seeing a train on the SSFL!
What I think this really highlights is the problem with starting a crash investigation from the point of view of determining who is culpable and how much.

That in itself is part of the problem, and I dare say probably a contributing factor in this case.  

If you work in an environment where safety is policed under threat of criminal prosecution, no-one is going to do *anything* contributing to safety beyond their immediate field of responsibility - lest what they do proves inadequate and they wind up before the inquisition.

Just a guess of course, but it seems in this case responsibility for signalling infrastructure was probably split across two perway divisions: high speed and conventional.  Both probably have adequate infrastructure in place to ensure safe operation on their sections of perway, but neither assumed responsibility for nor implemented appropriate measures to protect the transition.  But that's OK, the driver can take the fall when things go pear shaped.
djf01

There are two elements to this...

1. Judicial where there are potential criminal charges under the Spanish legal system. Obviously they have moved quickly on the evidence at hand and the driver is already before the court.

2. Safety investigation to determine the cause and contributing factors and make recommendations.

It's not unusual in many countries to arrest people immediately after an incident.
  djf01 Chief Commissioner

There are two elements to this...

1. Judicial where there are potential criminal charges under the Spanish legal system. Obviously they have moved quickly on the evidence at hand and the driver is already before the court.

2. Safety investigation to determine the cause and contributing factors and make recommendations.

It's not unusual in many countries to arrest people immediately after an incident.
cootanee
I had a quick look in Google to see what sort of accident investigation process the Spanish have for rail crashes, if any, without success.  Their air crash investigatory body has aviation in the title, so probably won't take part in this.  

AFAIK Spain has an inquisitorial legal system, where all matters are dealt with by a judge in charge of an investigation with the aim of getting to the truth (in theory), a bit like a Royal Commission in our system.
  awsgc24 Minister for Railways

Location: Sydney
CMIIAW, but I have the impression that the derailed train was on the Broad Gauge, with a pair of Faster Standard Gauge tracks alongside. The SG "AVE" trains would have been protected by continuous coded track circuits, which would have regulated speeds around sharp curves. The not so fast BG trains may have had a lesser non-continuous train protection system, more vulnerable to distractions by say mobile phone calls.

At least this phone call was an "official" one, unlike a SPAD collision at Chatsworth, California.

The say ticket inspector making this call was perhaps unwise making it on approaching a sharp curve, if he can be reasonably expected to know the location of sharp curves. A guard, on the other hand, who is involved with train working, would be expected to have some knowledge of at least the most important sharp curves, such as those south of Waterfall.

My father used to say "no talking at intersections", on the basis that intersections are more hazardous than other parts of the road system. The Spanish driver could have told the ticket inspector "no talking near sharp curves/approaching stations." Did the official protocols for the use of phones on trains have such an invocation?

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