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Friday, July 26, 2013

How safe is the train?

When you are watching the daily news, it would appear that the train is not a very safe way of transport.


A couple of days ago, a Spanish high-speed train derailed near Santiago de Compostela. At least 78 people died in the crash, hundreds are wounded. Before that, there was another accident in France and in April there was the disaster with the poisonous fluids in our own country. A freight train derailed and liters of dangerous fluid went into the river and brooklets of Wetteren. Here only one life was lost (an older man who was curious and went to examine the place of derailment with his dog) but the center of town was closed down for some time. All shops, bars, restaurants and school had to close unatil the poison was disposed of (they had to clean up the sewers for that). As I am a teacher in a school there, I had to remain home as well. And until the end of the schoolyear I had to take a bus instead of the train, because the trains did not go past the place of accident.

You'd think the train is not quite safe to travel on, when you look at all those accidents. But in truth, the train is one of the safest ways to travel. Yes, they don't always run on time (not in Belgium, anyway) but most of the time they get you safely to your place of destination.

When accidents happen, more than often it is caused by human error. In Wetteren, the train conductor was way over the legal speed limit and because of this high speed the train derailed. The same appears to be true for the disaster in Spain. The guy behind the wheel was a speed freak, who used his Facebook account to show his fondness for high speeds. Only in France they still don't know what caused the accident. This could be an attack by terrorists; it is whispered.

I have been travelling by train for all of my life and never experienced an accident. The worst thing that happened was sitting in the train when suddenly somebody jumped under it. I felt how the body was knocked against the carriage I was sitting in. And then of course we had to stay on this train for hours before the police had done their job and the medical examiner had released the body....

I have had accidents with my car (when I still drove one). None of my fault, but nevertheless... I never got hurt though, only the cars got wrecked. And once I sat on a plane that had to do an emergency landing in London Heathrow. Then we KNEW something was very wrong, and the plane could explode any second. Wonder above wonder we landed (albeit while a green fluid sprayed out of the wings) on a far-off runway sided with tens of firefighter trucks and lots of ambulances. The worst thing of the whole experience was you were not allowed to use the toilet (and my gall bladder was nearly bursting) and then having to see you got onto another plane at Heathrow (all couple with children had precedent and I had to threathen them with my lawyer to get seats in a plane that left the same day)

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