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Spain launches train safety review

Spain will review speed limits and security systems throughout its rail network to avoid a repeat of the train crash that killed 79 people last month.

The government also proposes improving rail signs and introducing hands-free phone communication between drivers and the rail control centre, Public Works Minister Ana Pastor told a parliamentary transport commission

A court investigating the disaster has said its preliminary findings show the train was going at 195 kph (121 mph) on a stretch where the speed limit was 80 kph (50 mph) when it crashed July 24 on a tight curve outside the north-western pilgrim city of Santiago de Compostela. The driver, Francisco Jose Garzon Amo, had been talking on a company mobile phone to a colleague seconds before the train derailed.

The investigating judge, whose conclusions are not expected for several weeks, has provisionally charged Garzon with 79 counts of negligent homicide pending a possible trial. He has been freed but must report to court weekly.

Garzon has admitted in court that he was travelling too fast but could not explain to an investigating judge why he didn*t slow down in time.

Ms Pastor said the government also wants to introduce stricter psychological and physical tests for drivers as part of 20 post-crash safety measures.

She said the review of procedures has already started. "The entire network will be analysed and, in accordance with this analysis, steps will be taken to improve safety."

She said that high-tech signalling systems will be installed on stretches where speeds must be reduced sharply. Those systems are designed to automatically apply the brakes if a train exceeds the speed limit and have been installed along the dangerous Santiago de Compostela curve since the crash happened.

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