Yesterday I flew in to Bergerac again. Actually of course I am writing this before flying on Friday so I am hopefully that the flight was safe. Indeed we all assume nowadays that all mass transit systems are safe. And rightly so. Despite the awful train crash in Spain where so many have died, and the occasionally reported plane crash these ways of travelling have never been safer.
As actually all travel is. Cars are infinitely safer than they ever used to be, and one of the unsung achievements of the Labour government was the safety systems they forced on the Rail companies, which have made train travel so much safer. And trains not crashing are never news.
But it still does cross your mind. I have never been scared of travelling by train or plane, but occasionally have had a scare in a car. And there is a dichotomy here. More and more people are travelling, on all forms of transport. And yet we expect there to be less and less accidents. And we also want to go faster and faster. High speed trains are just one example of this, and of course the train in Spain was a high-speed train. It is not known yet whether there was some mechanical or systems failure on that train, or whether for whatever reason the driver was simply driving far too fast.
And maybe this will always be the case. One wonders if computerization will be the answer. The DLR, which I travel on every day, is driver-less – and very safe. So far. But I wonder what the public reaction would be if a DLR train malfunctioned and lives were lost. Would we blame the computer system and insist on drivers being able to over-ride the computer?
I don’t think we will ever be able to completely eliminate risk, but we have been remarkably successful at minimizing them. And in a strange way, every serious accident makes travelling that much safer. There will no doubt be an inquiry into the Spanish crash and recommendations which if instituted will make future train travel even safer.