MADRID (AP) — Spain will review speed limits and security systems throughout its rail network to avoid a repeat of a train crash that killed 79 people last month, a government minister said Friday.
The government also proposed improving rail signs and introducing hands-free phone communication between drivers and the rail control center, Public Works Minister Ana Pastor told a parliamentary transport commission
A court investigating the disaster has said its preliminary findings show the train was going at 195 kph (121 mph) on a stretch where the speed limit was 80 kph (50 mph) when it crashed July 24 on a tight curve outside the northwestern pilgrim city of Santiago de Compostela. The driver, Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, had been talking on a company cellphone to a colleague seconds before the train derailed.
The investigating judge, whose conclusions are not expected for several weeks, has provisionally charged Garzon with 79 counts of negligent homicide pending a possible trial. He has been freed but must report to court weekly.
Garzon has admitted in court that he was traveling too fast but could not explain to an investigating judge why he didn*t slow down in time.
Pastor, the government minister whose job includes oversight of the transport sector, said the government also wants to introduce stricter psychological and physical tests for drivers as part of 20 post-crash safety measures.
She said the review of procedures has already started. "The entire network will be analyzed and, in accordance with this analysis, steps will be taken to improve safety," Pastor said.
She said that high-tech signaling systems will be installed on stretches where speeds must be reduced sharply. Those systems are designed to automatically apply the brakes if a train exceeds the speed limit and have been installed along the dangerous Santiago de Compostela curve since the crash happened, authorities have said.
Associated Press writer Barry Hatton in Lisbon contributed to this report.