How Spain’s Train Tragedy Is a Blow to Spanish National Pride


Correction appended: July 30, 2013, 2:40 a.m. E.T.

The man at the helm of the train that derailed in northwestern Spain on July 25, killing 79, admitted his responsibility on Sunday night. Appearing before an investigating judge in Santiago de Compostela, conductor Francisco José Garzón Amo confessed that a “distraction” led him to enter the tight curve at an excessively high speed, causing the train to jump the track and slam into a concrete retaining wall. It was the same explanation that Spanish railway officials, denying a system failure and instead blaming human error, had been urging all weekend. But Garzón’s acceptance of guilt failed to completely resolve questions about whether something had gone wrong with Spain’s famed high-speed-rail network. And because that network is perhaps the country’s most successful example of technological innovation, those doubts extend not merely to its transportation industry, but to Spain’s very identity.

In his…

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