The Bari Train Crash and Railway Safety.

It was overshadowed by the much greater tragedy in France just a few days later, and doesn’t give us any stock villains for three-minute-hates. But the tragic train crash in Italy, following so quickly from the very similar crash in Germany raises a lot of questions about rail safety.

On the RMWeb forum, which has a lot of knowledgeable people including many who work in the rail industry, the resulting discussion on signalling systems for single-track lines and how they might be improved includes positive words for the software testing profession.

The system itself would be cheap, but the testing needed to demonstrate that it’s safe (and idiot proof) to the appropriate regulatory authorities is going to be quite expensive. Proper software testers(*) aren’t cheap.

From what I can tell, the Italian system appears to be a variation on the Telegraph and Train Order system without the use of either a physical single-line token or a virtual equivalent, a practice long since superceded in Britain. There is a far higher risk of human error leading to a fatal accident.

Though there have been quite a few head-on collisions in Britain resulting from conflicting movements across junctions, including the Ladbrooke Grove disaster, I can only think of two single-line collisions in the past century, at Abermule in 1921 and Cowden in 1994. That’s some safety record.

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2 Responses to The Bari Train Crash and Railway Safety.

  1. John Hunt says:

    Although fares are a lot higher than they used to be on the Rail Network in Britain, safety seems to have improved vastly over the last 15-20 years. There seemed to be several serious crashes every year, as recently as the late ’90′s. I could live with not having as fast trains as other countries, if it meant safety was better. Don’t know if there’s necessarily a correlation?

  2. Tim Hall says:

    Actually dedicated high-speed lines have a very good safety record; they have the latest and most sophisticated signalling, and don’t have things like level crossings. A parallel with motorways being far safer than ordinary roads.