How does that old song go? “Driving that train, high on cocaine, Casey Jones you better watch your speed…”
There have been many train accidents resulting in death and injuries recently. Most involving speed or vehicles on the train tracks and commuter trains. Shipping oil, coal and hazardous or flammable materials are on the increase and seems possible that a freight train accident could spill these types of materials and cause a major clean up issue or fire.
Fast moving commuter trains have always been an issue in my community, occasionally somebody will be killed on the tracks when they don’t hear the train coming while jogging wearing headphones. Pets and other wild animals can also be victims of fast trains.
Occasionally train engineers exceed reasonable speed and whether be accident, impaired judgment or possible coercion by others the results can be a train jumping the track and causing injuries or death.
My friend suggested that having two people driving the train would help but I thought that judging from what had happened with a recent plane crash where a pilot became suicidal, having two people wouldn’t solve everything. To me it seems safer to have the system be fully automated or mostly so with a backup engineer for emergencies.
To me the best solution would be to have a lightweight vehicle travel down the tracks ahead of the train and check the track for issues. There would not be any need to have anyone driving it if it was developed like the self driving cars. It could slow down quickly and gently move people and animals out of the way. If some obstruction or track issue was detected it could tell the train following behind to put on the emergency brakes. It takes a long distance to slow down and stop a fully loaded freight train so the car would have to be ahead of the train far enough to allow a safe stop, yet close enough so that animals or people would not get on the tracks after the car passed.
Unfortunately with our current economic system there is little incentive for this to be developed. All industries are trying to maximize profits and the government does not fully priorities trains, plus they claim they don’t have any money. I’m not sure why but the trucking industries seem to have the most government support at this time.
If you develop this idea and make billions of dollars with it, I could sure use a kickback in some cryptocoins or something. 🙂 Just sorta kidding. It would feel real good just to see a few lives saved, although one can always use a bit more security in their life and the family they support. 😉
In terms of moving heavy loads with a minimum of resources I’ve heard trains are way ahead of trucks or other transportation for movement of goods across land. Less friction happens with metal against metal and costs to maintain tracks are much less than the costs to maintain roadways with heavy loads traveling over them. Plus if all trains are self driving or just have a single person to mitigate risks on failures or emergencies labor and fuel cost should be lower. Compared to moving freight by plane trains are way more efficient, however we may all have to learn to slow down a bit more and not expect our deliveries yesterday. (I can remember one holiday trip where we sat on the track for hours, got stuck in snow, and arrived many hours late 3:00 am on Christmas morning to the sight of some rather tired looking relatives) 🙁 Perhaps with fully automated trains the speed could be increased and more funding could go towards maintaining the tracks in an optimum way.