(Repeats story from July 25 without changes)
By Andrés González and Julien Toyer
MADRID, July 25 Why was the train going so fast?
Did the driver fail to heed speed limits on a sharp curve? Did
brakes fail? What about the safety system meant to force the
train or the driver to slow down if going too fast?
These are among issues investigators will look into after
Spain's worst train crash in decades, which left at least 80
dead and 94 injured, 35 of them in serious condition.
A day after the crash, the driver of the train which
derailed on the outskirts of the northern Spanish city of
Santiago de Compostela was under police watch in hospital but
had not been arrested.
A judge in the Galicia region ordered police to question the
driver, Francisco Jose Garzon, as a suspect and also ordered
them to seize the black box of the train.
The 52-year-old driver was a 30-year veteran, said Renfe,
the state train company. It has been widely reported that he
took a sharp curve with an 80-kmph speed limit at more than
twice that speed.
Many newspapers published excerpts from his Facebook account
where he boasted of driving trains at high speed. The account
was closed early on Thursday.
The driver was not available for comment and Reuters was not
able to locate his family or determine whether he has a lawyer.
Representatives of railway unions said it was too early to
tell whether the driver was to blame.
"Human error is always a possibility, and in defence of
human error what do we have, we have technology, that is what it
is for ... but it is very difficult to know what might have
happened without, for example, hearing what the driver was
saying at the time," said Miguel Angel Cillero, responsible for
transport at union UGT.
While police and the judge were looking into potential
negligence on the part of the driver, the Public Works Ministry
launched a more technical investigation. Renfe and Adif, the
state track operator, began their own probes.
Security video footage showed the train, with 247 people on
board, hurtling into a concrete wall at the side of the track as
carriages jack-knifed and the engine overturned.
The impact was so strong that one carriage of the train flew
over a wall and landed on an embankment several metres above.
Main story on the train disaster
Timeline on Spanish train tragedies
TWO SAFETY SYSTEMS
The train involved, made by Bombardier and Talgo, was a
series 730 that Renfe uses for its Alvia service, which is
faster than conventional trains but not as fast as the AVE
trains that criss-cross Spain at even higher speeds.
The train was built in 2007-2009, but remodelled in 2012 to
The train is designed to operate on conventional and
high-speed tracks that make use of two different types of safety
systems that are meant to regulate excessive speed.
On high-speed lines, trains use the European Train Control
System, or ETCS, system, which automatically slows down a train
that is going too fast.
On slower lines, trains operate under an older system called
ASFA, a Spanish acronym for Signal Announcement and Automatic
Braking, which warns the driver if a train is moving too fast
but does not automatically slow it down.
At the site of the disaster, just 3 km before reaching the
Santiago de Compostela station, the train was passing through an
urban area on a steep curve. At that point of the track, two
railway experts said, it uses the older ASFA safety system.
Professor Roger Kemp, a Fellow of the Royal Academy of
Engineering in Britain, said in an e-mailed comment: "As the
driver was leaving the high-speed line to join a much slower
route before entering the station, there must have been at least
prominent visual warnings to reduce speed, if not audible
warnings and an electronic speed supervision system."
Local media reported that railway union representatives had
questioned whether a high-speed train should have been adapted
to run on a track with curves that had been designed for
A source close to ADIF said the safety system was apparently
working correctly and a train had passed an hour earlier with no
The train, packed with families visiting relatives and
revellers on their way to a major religious festival, was not
It began its seven hour journey to the northern region of
Galicia right on time: at 15.00 CET on the dot. It crashed at
20.41, two minutes before it was due to arrive.
(Additional reporting by Kate Kelland, Teresa Medrano and
Elisabeth O'Leary; Writing by Fiona Ortiz and Sarah White;
Editing by Peter Graff)