Friday, February 24, 2012

Update/Argentina: Train Collision Occurred After Years of Failed Safety Inspections

According to Argentina's auditor general (AG), Leandro Despouy, the country's deadliest train accident (50 killed, nearly 800 injured) in decades was foreseeable and preventable, given a history of failed safety tests that provided the government to cancel the train operator's concession, Trains of Buenos Aires (TBA).

Conversely, the TBA contended that the government's insistence on keeping fairs below the equivalent of 25 cents per trip made it impossible for TBA to fund safety improvements. Nevertheless, instead of continuing to use railway cars built 40 years ago, upgraded cars could have significantly reduce the number of casualties from Wednesday's (February 22) collision.

COMMENT: AG Despouy, however, said TBA had been failing safety requirements since 2002. Many of these compliance problems were raised in an extremely critical report in 2008.

To make matters worse, former Transport Secretary Ricardo Jaime awaits trial for allegedly approving millions of dollars in train subsidies after accepting free Brazilian vacation flights from businessman Claudio Cirigliano. Cirigliano's Grupo Plaza holding company ironically owns both TBA and competing bus lines.

Sadly, railway systems in many countries are poorly run and abundant with safety concerns, particularly when operating equipment is obsolete and not designed from the standpoint of passenger safety.

There is merit to TBA's contention that by being forced to keep fares so low for working class commuters, the entity was deprived of having sufficient profits with which to address safety concerns. TBA's website even explains that revenue from fares is insufficient to even fund TBA's operating costs.

In my book, STAYING SAFE ABROAD, I urge caution in taking public transportation for a number of reasons, including passenger safety. It is safe to assume that most of Argentina's elite does not travel by train.

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