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Basic operational rule on railways says that trains cannot collide only if they are NOT PERMITTED TO OCCUPY THE SAME SECTION OF LINE AT THE SAME TIME.
However, over a two-centuries long history of railways, railway signaling went through the process of constant evolution and adaptation to new TECHNOLOGICAL and MARKET circumstances.
Although the basic operational rule remained the same, as demand for rail traffic grew, the “section of line” was getting SHORTER and shorter (all the way to the minimal possible extent), in order to enable MORE CAPACITY (all the way to the maximum capacity theoretically possible).
On the other hand, as technology made progress, so did the way of “communicating” the signal signs to train drivers: from FLAGS, through MECHANICAL and LIGHT SIGNALS, to the point where signals are NO LONGER EVEN REQUIRED and whole communication is done between the railway infrastructure and the train drivers cab, in real-time, thus optimizing the train speed and braking patterns automatically.
If you want to find out exactly WHY and HOW did this happen – check out our video.