14 July 2012
HSR and Grade Crossings
When sharing tracks with other trains, high-speed trains can and do use grade crossings on a daily basis, with all their attendant risks. Examples of this practice abound in Europe, where new HSR networks have been patched into existing rail networks. High-speed trains are limited to the same speeds as other trains when using grade crossings, and are exposed to the same collision risk. The trains are built to take it (the relevant standard is EN 15227) and have been involved in dozens if not hundreds of grade crossing accidents over the past three decades. When a train collides with a car, damage to the train is usually only cosmetic. But high-speed trains have also collided with trucks and farm tractors, with more dire results, but only one known passenger fatality in 1988. A small sample of those horrors is provided at right.
On a mostly grade-separated corridor like the peninsula, new grade separations are desirable primarily because they reduce gate down-time and speed the flow of road traffic, and secondarily because they reduce the risk of collision with pedestrians, cars and trucks. They are not inherently required to operate high-speed trains in a blended system, any more than they are required to operate Caltrain. Suggesting otherwise amounts to baseless fear-mongering that is best confined to the editorial page.