Scores Dead in Galicia Rail Crash
Earlier today an Alvia high speed train operated by Spain’s RENFE crashed near Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, killing at least 77 people at the time of this writing. It is the worst rail disaster in Spain in at least 40 years and one of the worst crashes involving high speed rail ever.
The Alvia trains operated by RENFE are not the AVE bullet trains. This train appears to have been a RENFE Class S730 train built by Talgo and Bombardier. The top speed for the RENFE Class S730 is 250 km/h on standard gauge and 220 km/h on the Iberian gauge. The top speed for the AVE trains is 350 km/h.
It’s still too early to definitively say what happened to cause this crash. Numerous reports claim the train was traveling at a high rate of speed. A derailment into a curve would be consistent with a speed that is too high for the given conditions.
Regardless of the specific cause, the crash will almost certainly have major ramifications for high speed rail in Spain. The 2011 Wenzhou high speed rail crash took place two years ago yesterday, and has led to major changes in Chinese high speed rail policy. Spain has been aggressively expanding its own high speed rail systems, and though it’s been at it longer than China, a crash this deadly will cause some kind of political fallout.
For now, the attention of Spain is on rescuing all the victims and saving lives. But in a country where the Prime Minister is already under fire and both major political parties are facing a wave of voter anger over prolonged economic weakness, a crash like this is sure to have some broader impact.
UPDATE: There is now video of the crash. The derailment looks to have occurred just as the train entered the curve, with the car right behind the locomotive being the first to obviously get out of position. This will fuel speculation, based on early reports, that the train was going too fast at the time it entered the curve.