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Recent crashes raise questions on California high-speed rail system

August 1, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Recent train accidents have some Californians questioning the safety of the state's high-speed rail system. The new concerns come just weeks before the hopeful groundbreaking on the $69-billion bullet train project.

California's High Speed Rail Authority took great pains to reassure Californians about the system's safety in the wake of this summer's two European crashes. A train crash near Paris killed six passengers. Shortly after, an accident in Spain last week killed 79.

Board members went off the meeting agenda to address concerns. They note California will be fully automated using technology that doesn't exist on current rail systems, like an over-ride feature that would have slowed down the train automatically before a curve.

"Our system will be fully train-controlled. We'll have full train controls on every inch of our system, so that that kind of accident could not happen," said Dan Richard with the California High Speed Rail Authority.

The state also points out the accident in Spain happened on a portion of track that's not high-speed rail, and there are already rules in place for driver distractions.

"The Spanish operator was on a cellphone. That's prohibited under U.S. law. We will be complying with those laws and making sure that kind of thing does not happen," said Richard.

Officials had hoped to break ground in July for the first 30-mile segment in the Central Valley. It's now August and all they will say is it'll be soon.