> They stem from very different philosophies regarding safety.
> The Europeans work to prevent trains from wrecking; the Americans
> work to protect passengers when a wreck occurs. Neither approach is
> necessarily better than the other, but in practice rail safety has
> for decades been far better in Europe and Japan than the USA.
A colloration can be made with cars: prevent road accidents vs making the
cars safer. I would guess the European method would make trains safer
because they prevent accidents from occuring in the first place (duh!). One
might also consider that since rail serves a greater proportion of travel in
Europe and Japan, than in the states, a lack of high levels of safety would
become very obvious quickly. If Amtrak suddenly had, say, 20% of intercity
travel in the states, the lack of service and safety would become quite
> The causes are many and complex; reading the NTSB accident reports is
> enlightening, but there is no single smoking gun.
How does one focus on what needs improvement? Resources-willing, improving
everything all at once is desirable, but probably isn't going to happen. I
assume that train lines are not easy to upgrade, though perhaps cheaper than
You've said that one of the most (if not THE most) common causes of train
accidents are running red lights. Hmm...similar problem with cars, too.
> European systems generally have some form of automated signal enforcement,
> although not the UK, which is how the Ladbroke Grove tragedy occured
> four years ago; in a typical year, the British rail system experiences
> nearly 1000 "SPAD" events, "Signals Passed At Danger" (i.e., red). Running
> signals, from whatever cause, is the single largest cause of rail wrecks
> (perhaps road wrecks, too) in the USA and the UK.
All right. You say it in the paragraph just above.
> Of course, all metro systems are in principle fail-safe; drivers can't
> a train even if they try. In practice it isn't watertight, but it's fairly
In the metros that I've ridden, train wrecks seem to be near-impossible,
except if one train is unable to leave the station for a some length of
time, and the train that comes after it doesn't stop. The greatest danger
comes from other people: jumping/falling into oncoming trains, or striking
the third rail, or the highly unusual and very rare fight.