What Impact Will The Train Crash In Spain Have On The Rail Travel Industry?

CNN and other news networks have been airing dramatic clips of the train crash in Spain that killed 80 people on Wednesday over and over again this week. And if it weren’t for the Anthony Weiner sexting scandal, the coverage might be even more intense. We’ll learn more about the cause of the crash in the weeks and months to come as the investigation unfolds, but based on what we know now, how will the crash impact the public’s perception of train travel safety?

According to press reports, the train driver, Francisco José Garzón Amo, now reportedly in police custody, was driving twice as fast as he should have been on the section of track where the crash occurred. He posted messages on Facebook last year boasting about driving trains some 200 kilometers per hour and reportedly told rescue workers, ‘I’ve f***ed it up. I want to die.” All this points to the conclusion that this is a case of driver error rather than a structural issue with Spain’s high-speed trains. And statistics indicate that Spain’s rail safety record is better than the European average. But will these facts be enough to reassure nervous travelers?Train travel is my favorite mode of transport. For me, a day spent on a pleasant train ride is infinitely more pleasant than a day spent on an airplane or a bus. I’m traveling to Spain over the Labor Day weekend, and just as the crash transpired on Wednesday, I was actually looking into schedules and tickets for a planned train trip from Barcelona to San Sebastian. But I have to admit; watching the footage of the train crash scared the hell out of me and I have yet to buy the ticket, though I probably will.

There is a risk every time you attempt to go anywhere- by car, foot, boat, train, plane, or donkey. Crashes will happen but it’s somewhat rare to see such dramatic footage like this one. I think the crash will have only a short-term negative effect on the rail industry because most travelers are aware of the risks and the fact that all pilots and drivers can make mistakes.

But let’s hope that something positive comes from this disaster so that something like this never happens again. Spain has invested heavily in developing its high-speed train network, but now it needs to implement a system where drivers are being monitored more closely. Authorities can’t track every comment a driver makes on Facebook, but surely there is a way to flag drivers who have been guilty of driving too fast and removing them before they have a chance to cause harm.

Virgin ‘See-Through’ Uniforms Not A Big Hit With Workers

Virgin Trains, the UK rail arm of Richard Branson’s Virgin Group promotes what they do as a faster, more comfortable and greener way to travel. Virgin believes that rail has a clear role to play in sustainable transport and they want to lead the charge. Choosing to minimize the negative and accentuate the positive, Virgin Trains takes social responsibility seriously. Uniforms on their employees? Not so much, unless prompted to do so.

The new uniforms, designed by Vivienne Westwood, are currently on hold because they expose the underwear of female staff members. The Telegraph reports the uniforms are described as “flimsy” and “see-through” via complaints to Manuel Cortes, leader of the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association trade union. But Virgin has an answer.

Applying a similar strategy where they “want to challenge assumptions, solve problems and deliver innovative solutions,” as Virgin Trains says on their website, the company gave each staff member a £20 voucher to buy suitable undergarments.Already investing £500,000 in the new uniform program, Andy Cross, Virgin’s business support director, said, “It’s important that our people feel comfortable and so we will be issuing vouchers in the next few days for ladies to buy tops to wear under their blouses.”

Still, union members are not happy about the new uniforms and believe the move to them comes directly from Branson himself.

“Our female members are upset because they feel Sir Richard is cutting corners by asking them to wear flimsy blouses, which are skimpy and they feel too revealing,” said Cortes.

For more on Virgin’s plans to roll out new designer uniforms, like these for Virgin Atlantic Airlines, watch the video below:

[Photo credit – Flickr user D@LY3D]

Wanderu’s Site Lets You Research And Book Bus And Rail Travel

If you’re a traveler, then you’re a Kayaker. Not a paddler, but a devotee of Kayak.com, the airline (and hotel and rental car) search engine that makes booking the lowest fares a breeze. If you’re a traveler, then you’ve also probably cursed the fact that a similar site doesn’t exist for bus and rail travel.

We can now count our blessings, thanks to Wanderu. According to Thrillist, this ingenious domestic search engine offers “hundreds of routes, operators, and schedules into a free, trip-aggregating database.” You can even make bookings, which is like a giant gift from the Travel Gods.

As soon as Wanderu or a competitor makes this info available for international travel, budget travelers won’t have anything left to complain about – except maybe the quality of their guesthouse banana pancakes.

[Photo credit: Flickr user DavidDennisPhotos.com]

World War II Bomb Closes Berlin Rail Station

Berlin commuters got an unwelcome reminder of their city’s wartime past today when a bomb from World War II was discovered near the city’s main railway station.

The Hauptbahnhof was closed for several hours as bomb disposal experts dealt with the device, the BBC reports. Flights to and from Tegel airport were diverted.

The device was a 220-pound Soviet bomb and was discovered at a building site a mile north of the train station. While this may seem to be too far away to cause concern to those using the station, German bomb disposal experts are extra careful, especially after three of their number were killed while attempting to defuse a wartime bomb in Gottingen in 2010.

The bomb has now been defused and taken away. All transport has resumed.

Berlin was hit hard in World War II. As you can see from this image taken by the British army shortly after the war, the city was pretty much leveled. Nearly half a million tons of ordnance was dumped on the city and an estimated one in eight bombs didn’t go off. While most explosive devices were cleaned up in the months after the war, they’re still being uncovered on a regular basis.

Germany isn’t the only country that has to worry about wartime ordnance. In 2001, workers found a World War II grenade near Gatwick Airport in England.

Last year the BBC published an interesting interview with a German bomb disposal expert.

[Photo courtesy No 5 Army Film & Photographic Unit, Wilkes A (Sergeant)]

Photo Of The Day: Southern Cross Station

Train stations around the world all have their own personality. Often, they are great works of architecture. This photo from pkorsmok gives a different view of the lines and design of Southern Cross Station in Melbourne, Australia, capturing a quiet moment in a station that serves over 40,000 passengers a day.

Makes you want to get on a train, doesn’t it?

Have your own great travel photos? Submit them to the Gadling Flickr pool for a chance to be featured on Photo of the Day.

[Photo Credit: pkorsmok]