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Spanish Train Crash

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Spanish Train Crash

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Old 25th Jul 2013, 16:45
  #41 (permalink)  
 
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A startling video of the event has just been released.

It appeared to be moving quickly and it looks like the first carriage came off the rails and then took the locomotive with it.
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 16:46
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The bend had a 80kph limit on it according to the TV news and video looks faster than that.

Last edited by millerscourt; 25th Jul 2013 at 16:47.
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 18:11
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I've never seen people standing on the TGV.

Indeed. Every passenger is allocated a seat. It is not possible to board a TGV or an idTGV without a seat ticket. (Obviously you can walk about once on board but no standing-room-only passengers are carried).

However, despite what has been said here, this incident was NOT an AVE, the Spanish equivalent of the TGV, and was not a single unit train.
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 18:19
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This kind of train called ALVIA, it is not an AVE train.
ALVIA is using AVE railroad tracks. That's why ALVIA can reach 200 km/h but it is not considered an AVE train.

AVE means Alta Velocidad Española and it is also the way to name an AVE TRAIN which is able to reach at least 300 km/h. In Spain, is being used high technology from SIEMENS related to AVE.

An AVE train has automatic brake system, so if the driver doesn´t brake, this system can detect thanks to sensors the railroad tracks where AVE must reduce speed. In other words, in an AVE train, the driver is not necessary to brake.
Unfortunately, I think that this kind of train ALVIA needs a driver to brake.
ALVIA has recorders...so in the following hours we will know...

It is said there have been about two lashes on the third or four wagon train before derailment indicating oddly derail mode.
Obviously, the train should not have exceded 80 km/h in this curve and the driver was aware about it.
Also, the train was 5 minutes late but it was not the reason to increase speed according to trade union which says that in general drivers are not under the influence or stress of scheduled time.

There are 80 dead and may increase because there are 35 victims in a very critical conditions. Unfortunately, more victims may appear under some wagons that have not been lifted with cranes.

At the begining of the accident, local residents helped the accident victims. Firefighters, police and ambulances took almost 30 minutes to help the wounded. I fear that the delay was due to lack of coordination.

They just confirmed that the driver is in police custody due to his first statement.
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 18:30
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The imagery on Google Earth and Google maps showing the trackwork in this area is woefully outdated (2007/2008). The area was substantially reworked prior to the introduction of the AVE High Speed service.
Yes, the curve on which the accident occurred has an 80kph speed limit but it lies at the northern end of a virtually dead straight track 80 kms long carved through the Spanish countryside from Ourense where normal the AVE speed limits are in force, in this case 220kph.

Could this be a simple case of disorientation or a lapse of concentration by the driver(s) ie., being much further down the track than he they thought? RENFE at one stage reported that the train was running 5 minutes late out of Ourense... 80kms of dead straight track would give an excellent opportunity to recover some of the lost time... Higher speed means less time to cover the distance and since point to point timings are memorised with increasing experience on the route it's quite a possibility and trying to wash off 140kph in a very short space of time and distance is nigh on impossible.

It seems to me that this is a typical holes in swiss cheese accident... excessive speed, the very strange and unconventional wheel and bogie arrangement of the articulated coaches, poorly designed trackwork, a passive rather than automatic train control system, driver disorientation, perhaps even the glare of the setting sun, all could contribute; in fact an accident just waiting to happen...

As an aside, the ALVIA units are in no way comparable with TGV or Eurostar stock. Alvia coaching stock is of a totally different design, low, short coaches, fully articulated, with just thirteen single axles shared between the 11 coaches. They were designed from the outset to be capable of higher speeds through curving tracks than conventional 4 axle 8 wheel coaches, they have a very low C of G. The power cars are dual voltage 3KVdc or 25KVac or diesel generator powered. It is quite common for two Alvia units to be coupled together and run in tandem... thank God that wasn't the case this time...

I would agree with the comment about the video that the lead power car appeared to handle the curve OK but was derailed by the diesel generator car which came unstuck first presumably because of its having a higher C of G and derailed then both the power car and the following coaches

Finally, two video links to these hybrid variants in less disagreeable times.. one coincidentally at Santiago de Compostela, the other at Lorca-Sutillena...

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Old 25th Jul 2013, 18:45
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Phalconphixer and NEW YEAR:

Interesting points you both have brought out.

The question in my mind, which I still don't quite understand if the report is true, is why did one of the drivers speak with some control tower/station shortly before the accident, telling those in the control station that he was going too fast for the curve? If he knew that then a: he was not distracted, b: he was not unaware of where he was and c: why didn't he apply brakes?

I guess we will all know in due course.
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 18:47
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It is indeed an Alvia train. These trainsets are very lightly loaded and run on just two sets of wheels per car, unlike the usual 8 wheeled bogies on, for example UK HST trains. If you look at the video taken from the lineside track camera, you'll see that the train separated initially between the front power car and the first car. This is a bit of a weak link on these trains. With AVE and HST sets in accidents like these, the train often stays together. The light connections between the cars on this Alvia gave way almost immediately and you can see that the cars separated and piled on top of each other. You'll notice that the front power car stayed on the track for a little way after separation.

If you look at google maps, you'll see that the line comes straight out of a tunnel after a long straight high speed part of the line and immediately into the curve. The black boxes will tell all, as will the surviving drivers, but one can't help but wonder whether the curve took the driver unawares as he left the tunnel after that long stretch. Let's hope for the driver's sake that there was a fault but the fact that he telephoned to say that he was about to derail suggests that he was caught unawares. A very sad day for Spanish railways which, in my experience, runs well, and has a good safety record. A sad day too for the relatives.
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 19:01
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Reading Phalconphixer's comment I thought "That can't be right, single axles? Surely they haven't been around except on coal trucks since dunnowhen."

Looking at the video it seems that's just what these trains have. With the short carriages and very low build I can see why the single axles might seem advantageous but such a compromise seems odd in a high speed train to say the least. Are they fixed to one of the coaches are are they articulated with some mechanism between the two? And the short diesel unit with its high CG behind the loco seems an odd compromise too. If the point of the design is to lower the CG why not build the diesel unit longer and lower?

This will be put down to driver error of one sort or another but some of the design compromises seems a little off, a bit like the idea of rubber insulated tires.
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 19:18
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I've often wondered how safe a TGV would be in a crash so I wiki'd the TGV carriages and found this:

TGVs have semi-permanently coupled articulated un-powered coaches, with Jacobs bogies between the coaches supporting both of them. Power cars at each end of the trains have their own bogies. Trains can be lengthened by coupling two TGVs together, using couplers hidden in the noses of the power cars.

The articulated design is advantageous during a derailment, as the passenger carriages are more likely to stay upright and in line with the track. Normal trains, by contrast, may split at couplings and jack-knife, as seen in the Eschede train disaster.

A disadvantage is that it is difficult to split sets of carriages. While TGV power cars can be removed from trains by standard uncoupling procedures, specialised depot equipment is needed to split carriages, by lifting the entire train at once. Once uncoupled, one of the carriage ends is left without a bogie at the split, so a bogie frame is required to support it.
  • Crashworthiness - crush zones and rigid passenger compartments ensure maximum safety in the event of a collision. The power units' frame is designed to take a (steady-state) 500 tonnes (490 long tons; 550 short tons) of force frontal load, and features structural fuses to absorb impact energy.
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 19:18
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Alvia trains do, indeed, have single axles. They've been in service for about ten years and, as far as I can ascertain, have never, until now, had a serious accident. There is little doubt that the light construction resulted in more deaths and injuries but their safety record does seem to be good.
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 20:04
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Alvia type train sets have been in operation for a lot longer than people think. The coaching stock is based on principles first established by Talgo in Spain in 1942. They have a long and distinguished career in Spain and in parts of the USA and continue to sell very well. The coach sets used in the Alvia trains are Talgo 250's... see wiki on 'Talgo'

ChrisVJ...That can't be right, single axles? Surely they haven't been around except on coal trucks since dunnowhen.
Yep!

Lets not lose track of the fact that by Spanish standards Alvia train-sets aren't actually that fast 220kph is only(!) 137.5mph. Our AVE's regularly run at 300kph (186mph) or even 350kph (218mph) and a 380kph version is on the drawing boards. Like high speed trains worldwide they do this best on long straight stretches of track, the Talgo system simply allows them to travel faster on conventional tracks than would be possible using conventional wheel and axle sets.

One has to wonder just what would have happened if the over bridge concrete walls and abutments hadn't been there; I guess it just possible that despite the diesel generator car rolling over, the lead power car and the trailing cars might just have stayed upright.... another hole in the Swiss cheese perhaps?

As for the driver radioing in that he knew he was going to derail one can only assume he made a full brake application and then notified the controllers in case he didn't make it out alive...

Last edited by Phalconphixer; 25th Jul 2013 at 21:19. Reason: to modify quote response by removing an incorrect statement
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 20:09
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IF the driver did indeed apply full brakes wouldn't that have exacerbated the situation i.e., full brakes in a curve traveling at high speed?
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 20:34
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Caco

First, thanks for all the info. Wonderful how many knowledgeable people we have on PPRuNe.

Looking at the video you provided it seems that the cars are alternate, a car with wheels at each end and then a car that must be almost entirely supported by the car ahead and the one behind.

I am speculating based on the cut outs at the ends of the cars where I can see what looks like a full size cut out at both ends of one car and the adjacent car has just a short cut out. Of course that could all be just cosmetic and the actual arrangement could be different.

Of course such an arrangement would do away with a lot of the complexity and weight of traditional bogey running gear and logically I can't see why it wouldn't work but to the lay person it still seems strange.
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 21:06
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A comment I've heard locally. I don't know whether it's justified or not.

When the new high speed rail track in Catalunia from the French border to Barcelona was constructed (it opened this year) hundreds of private properties (both farms and houses and businesses) were compulsory-purchased and demolished in order that curves in the track could be eliminated. Nobody stopped these purchases taking place.

However when the new line was built which passes into Santiago de Compostella, the Minister-President for Galacia stepped in and stopped quite a few compulsory purchases, requiring use of the unmodified existing track.

The same person, now Prime Minister, was walking about the scene of the accident with tears in his eyes today.

Since the accident will most likely be attributed to human error on the part of the driver, many people will say it doesn't matter that this steep and sudden curve in the railway track is where it is.
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 21:17
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requiring use of the unmodified existing track.
Canting (banking) the corner would help (and probably wouldn't adversely affect slower trains too much).

As has been mentioned, there are tight banked curves in Britain that accommodate high speeds.

Of course, if we have a case of a runaway train, then canting would help to prevent overturning.
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 21:50
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OFSO... possibly a lot of truth in what you say... quite a lot of today's (and yesterday's) politicians, both PP and PSOE, hale from that neck of the woods.
Mariano Rajoy was born and raised in Santiago, Jose Blanco is from the next province, Lugo and was Minister of Public Works and Transport during the building of the AVE route.. the same Jose Blanco who in Dec 2011 faced a Supreme Court probe into his conduct on charges of influence peddling and accepting bribes...
As for compulsory purchase of lands... those whose property fell victim of the yet to be opened Corvera Airport are allegedly still awaiting compensation... What was that about politicians...

"Politics is the business of getting power and privilege without possessing merit"—P J O'Rourke

"Anyone who wishes to become a politician should automatically be banned from becoming one" - Billy Connolly

"Politicians are like seagulls. They arrive from out of nowhere in a fluster, squawking, sticking their beaks in.... crapping all over everything and then flying off leaving a mess."

"Politicians are like nappies / diapers...They should be changed frequently, and for the same reason."

Last edited by Phalconphixer; 25th Jul 2013 at 21:54.
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 21:54
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Very impressed with the knowledge of OFSO and others who have given us great information on the technical specifications of the various trains used on the Spanish rail network. Thanks guys
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 22:13
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Just found this videolink on El Pais showing passage through the tunnel immediately preceding the curve and a hence typical passage through the curve at normal speed... sorry about the commercial at the beginning of the video.

Vídeo: El tramo del accidente, a velocidad normal | Vídeos | EL PAÍS
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 22:15
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Originally Posted by G-CPTN View Post
Do trains have recorders?

(even trucks do . . . )
Dunno about European ones but British ones are fitted with "black boxes" that record everything that happens on the train. Most every new build and older stock is being fitted and retro-fitted with forward facing cameras. Some of the film of level crossing abuse is really rather scary.
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Old 25th Jul 2013, 22:20
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Yes, the black boxes have been recovered and are in the hands of the judge who is handling the case.
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