High Speed Rail-Safety/Hazards

At speeds two to three times those of passenger and commuter trains, high-speed trains operating on essentially the same steel rail, at grade track systems pose magnified safety hazards to any crossing traffic or nearby settings. Notwithstanding the state of engineering and technology to which high-speed rail equipment and trains have been perfected, the possibilities for collisions, track failure, derailments and other railroad accidents have not been eliminated. Although infrequent, railroad accidents and equipment failures continue to occur on US railway systems. In the event that any such accident or equipment malfunction may occur involving a train traveling near or above 200 miles per hour, the impacts and results are likely to be severe, if not catastrophic.

High-speed train operation will require application of the most sophisticated and reliable safety equipment and technology to reduce or eliminate the possibilities of high-speed safety lapses or equipment failures. Dramatically greater operating speeds will extend the safety and hazard zones of high -peed trains to include virtually the entire length of track and right of way on which high speeds would be reached. These high-speed phenomena and impacts would necessarily extend well beyond vehicle crossings and developed areas, to include any locations where livestock, large game, falling rocks, flash floods or other such natural elements may occupy the path of trains traveling at very high speeds. The entire lengths of high-speed rail lines cannot be isolated from such random intrusions; but their possible occurrence requires a greater level of safety planning, preemptive hazard mitigation and use of safety equipment well beyond the current state of US railroad technology.

Preemptive decisions in the early planning stages of The California High-Speed Rail Project have led project directors to plan the grade separation of all street, highway and other vehicle crossings, and undergrounding of tracks in some locations. Notwithstanding the safety that such configurations would instill in the high-speed system, the significant construction cost increases resulting from the design changes may render the project financially unfeasible.


*Run planned CA Valley HSR route video


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