Australia is soon to be initiated into the ranks of an increasingly popular form of transportation on all other continents: high-speed rail. Such trains have been used in other parts of the world for decades.

The Australian government has identified several potential routes for the high-speed rail network, connecting Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Adelaide. These cities are the primary hubs for the system and would be the main stopping points for the trains. In addition to these cities, there are several other stops that are planned for the network, including Wollongong, Newcastle, Geelong, Ballarat, Albury-Wodonga, Bendigo and Shepparton. See this article for more information.

CLARA Project – new network of high-speed trains for Eastern Australia

Regarding the CLARA Project, “CLARA (Consolidated Land and Rail Australia) is a private property development consortium that has allocated the project for a A$75bn plan to build three ‘smart cities’ on the east coast of the country, with even more planned, in order to decentralise the Australian population away from large cities to smaller, more sustainable, high-tech inland cities.”

This project would link Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane with a network of high-speed trains. This proposed system has been met with some trepidation by some, given the recent high-speed rail derailments and crashes. We will detail examples of these below.

France 2015 High Speed derailment

History of high-speed rail crashes

The first major high-speed train crash occurred in Eschede, Germany on 3 June 1998, when an ICE (Intercity Express) train derailed, killing 101 people and injuring more than 80 others. The official cause of the crash was determined to be a manufacturing defect in a single axle of the train.

On 17 October 2000, a high-speed train crash occurred in Hatfield, England, resulting in four deaths and over 70 injuries. The cause was found to be a fractured rail within the track that had gone undetected during regular inspections.

The Great Heck Rail Crash (also known as the Selby Rail crash) occurred in England on 28 February 2001. It was caused by a Land Rover driver who had fallen asleep at the wheel and drove his vehicle off a road bridge onto the East Coast Main Line railway below. The Land Rover was struck by a northbound passenger train, which then derailed and collided with a freight train travelling in the opposite direction. Ten people were killed and 82 were injured in the crash.

On 22 September 2006, the Lathen Train Collision occurred due to miscommunication between workers and the radio despatcher, as they did not get the signal for track clearance. 23 people died and 11 were injured.

The Grayrigg train derailment in England on 23 February 2007 was caused by a broken rail which had not been properly maintained. One passenger died and almost 90 passengers were injured.

On 27 November 2009, the Nevsky Express train derailment occurred due to bomb explosion which was planted beneath the track on the route from Moscow to St Petersburg. 28 people died and more than 100 were injured.

On 23 July 2011, a high-speed train crash occurred in the Wenzhou district of China, when two high-speed trains collided. This resulted in 40 deaths and more than 200 injuries. The Chinese government determined that the crash was caused by a signal failure due to a lightning strike, followed by a miscommunication between the dispatchers and the train operators.

On 24 July 2013, a high-speed train derailment occurred in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, killing 79 people and injuring more than 140 others. The official investigation determined that the crash was caused by excessive speed.

On 12 May 2015, The Philadelphia Derailment happened and was found to be caused by excessive speed which caused the train to derail, resulting in 8 fatalities and over 200 injuries.

On 14 November 2015, there was the Eckwersheim derailment in France. The cause was determined to be excessive speed going around a curve. Eleven passengers were killed and 42 were injured in the incident.

On 24 July 2018, a high-speed train derailed in Ankara, Turkey, killing 24 people and injuring hundreds more. The official cause of the derailment was determined to be a faulty weld in a switch, which caused the train to jump off the tracks as it was approaching a station. Reports also indicate that the train was travelling at over twice the speed limit at the time of the crash.

In October 2018, a high-speed train crash occurred in Yilan County, northeastern Taiwan, killing at least 18 people and injuring 178. The cause was found to be due to excessive speed.

On 13 December 2018, the Marsandiz train collision in Turkey was found to be caused by human error. The driver of the second train failed to observe a red signal, and the train collided with the first train which was standing at the station. The accident killed 9 people and injured nearly 80 more.

On 6 February 2020, The Livraga high speed train in Italy was derailed, and the cause of the accident was a set of junction points being in the reverse position. Two people died and more than 30 passengers were injured in the incident.

On 2 April 2021, a high-speed train crashed in Yilan, Taiwan, killing 50 people. The train barreled into an unmanned truck that had rolled onto the track.

High-Speed Train Crash Compilation (Railgenics)

Further dangers of high-speed trains

Pedestrians crossing rail tracks: People are being killed crossing rail tracks, not realising how fast these new, high-speed trains are. We are used to intuitively gauging the time required to walk across a rail track with the speed of the train coming toward us, but these new trains travel at two or three times the speed of what we are familiar with. This is how the people in the following video were killed, when hit by South Florida’s new Brightline high-speed trains. Another incident happened with the same Brightline trains in 2018.

Free to Share Commercially - DuckDuckGo

Safety of wildlife: The serious risk posed by high speed rail of not providing enough safety for wildlife to cross is a problem that needs to be addressed at the onset.

We must ensure that the natural movement of animals within their habitats is not disrupted by these rail tracks, and to ensure animal deaths are kept to a minimum as they cross over the rails.

The Australian Government and CLARA will need to carefully consider the path of these high-speed rail tracks, failing which irreparable damage to ecosystems will occur, with irreplaceable habitats being destroyed, taxpayers’ money spent on restoration wasted, and local wildlife extinctions being a very real possibility.

This could be the devastating reality for nature. It would be very sad to see. Concerns are being raised in the UK and California in relation to these issues.

Free download from Unsplash

China developed the world’s largest high-speed rail network, but after the death of 40 people in a collision of two high-speed trains in 2011, there was public outrage, and the development of this new system was suspended. Watch this video about China’s experience.

In the below video, South Floridians are concerned about cyclists and pedestrians crossing rail tracks, trying to beat the superfast Brightline Trains. A cyclist did not survive, along with five other people whose lives were ended suddenly due to not anticipating the speed of these trains.

One comment on “Racing to Disaster: High-Speed Rail’s Consequences”
  1. There so much corruption in Government & business due to the massive amount of money on offer. It will go ahead for this reason alone.

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