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Rail network heads to face judge over Santiago train disaster

Top officials to be questioned about July crash that killed 79 people

The judge investigating the Santiago train crash, in which 79 people were killed, has called on three top railway officials to appear before him for questioning as formal suspects in his judicial proceedings, judicial sources said Tuesday.

Gonzalo Ferre, the chairman of state-controlled Adif, the administrator of Spain’s railway network, and his immediate predecessors in the post, Enrique Verdeguer and Antonio González Marín, have been named by Judge Luis Aláez as targets of the investigation into the accident, which took place on July 24. He has also called in all the directors who have served on Adif’s board since the Santiago-Ourense line where the accident happened was opened, on December 11, 2011.

The accident took place when the train took a curve at 190 km/h, despite a speed limit of 80 km/h for that section of track. The judge argued that although Adif’s board had delegated responsibilities for the rail network’s safety to a separate department, it still had the obligation to oversee that the department was operating in line with its brief. In an earlier statement, the judge indicated that while the cause of the accident was the excessive speed of the train – something that the train driver admitted in a phone conversation in the moments immediately after the crash – Adif was negligent in failing to equip the line with a signaling system to prevent accidents caused by human error.

The judge will also question officials directly responsibility for ensuring the safety of the network.

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