Feature

Spain: Will a crash derail our exports?

Spain mustn’t let one disastrous train crash undermine its high-speed rail industry.

Ramón MuñozEl País

Spain mustn’t let one disastrous train crash undermine its high-speed rail industry, said Ramón Muñoz. Our superfast train system, known as AVE, is second only to China’s in miles of track—and China has 20 times our landmass and 27 times our population. AVE technology is one of the “best ambassadors of the much-vaunted Brand Spain” that the government has been trying to promote. Spain won the bid to build a high-speed line in Saudi Arabia, connecting Mecca and Medina, and it is up for a $16 billion Brazilian contract to link São Paulo and Rio. Yet one crash could change all that. The train that derailed last week near Santiago de Compostela, slamming into a concrete wall and killing 79 passengers, wasn’t actually traveling on the high-velocity part of the track. But in this industry, perception is everything. The Brazilian project “could slip out of Spain’s grasp if, as a result of the tragic accident, word gets around that Spanish high-speed rail is unsafe.” That’s why officials have to start talking openly about how the crash might have been prevented: The AVE safety system, which would have alerted the driver to his excessive speed, was not installed on that part of the track. It should be clear that “Spanish technology was not at fault.”

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