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Spain's rail board put 'profits before lives,' court says

Feb. 15, 2014 at 4:32 PM   |   Comments

MADRID, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- A Spanish court investigating a deadly 2013 train crash near Santiago de Compostela blasted Spain's railway board for "suspected criminal negligence."

A passenger train traveling at nearly 120 mph attempted to brake to avoid another train and flew off the tracks when it went around a curve near the Santiago de Compostela train station in July.

Seventy-nine people were killed in the wreck and so far, train driver Francisco Jose Garzon del Amo is the only person charged in the case, ThinkSpain reported.

Garzon del Amo "cannot be the sole and exclusive" party charged in the case, since the track structure "appears to have contributed to increase the risk to passengers," the court report said.

"The decision of ADIF [Administrator of Rail Infrastructures] bosses, which departs from the general rules of rail travel, of reforming and converting an existing track into what is unquestionably a high-speed line and putting into effect of this decision has been considered, since the very beginning of investigations [into the accident] to be a suspected criminal negligence which carried a foreseeable increase in rail traffic risk which was not socially acceptable," the report said.

The court accused the ADIF of "putting profits before lives" for not updating its braking system to the European-standard ERTMS braking system, which automatically slows a train down when it is exceeding the speed limit.

The "only benefit obtained" through deciding to use the older ASFA braking system was "saving a few minutes" of the travel time between the cities of Ourense and Santiago de Compostela, the court said. At the same time the risk of danger to "hundreds of thousands of passengers who use the line every day" is increased by keeping the old system, the court said.

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