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Metrolink updating safety of travel cars in the event of an accident.

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James E. Ballidis
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Southern California’s Metrolink commuter train system will be getting much needed new crash-resistant cars delivered next month. Although they will not go into service until summer 2010, Metrolink is finally providing a safer commute for its 43,000 weekly riders.

The organization has purchased 117 of these state-of-the-art cars at an estimated cost of $229 million. They will go into field testing immediately at Metrolink’s Eastern Maintenance Facility in Colton. This new technology is similar to the “crush zones” that are primarily used in automobiles. It absorbs the impact of the crash, allowing for fewer injuries and deaths.

Moreover, this technology has been used internationally for the past ten years with good results. The specific function of the train cars will be to absorb the major damage at both ends of the train, not at the expense of the passengers. Additionally breakaway interior tables will help as well.

Two horrific Metrolink accidents; one in Glendale the other in Chatsworth has claimed the lives of 36 passengers and injured hundreds more. Of course safer cars would have saved lives, but in both of these crashes, human error was to blame.

In the Chatsworth crash, the engineer ran a red light and there was evidence of texting according to cell phone records. In the Glendale crash, a man was trying to commit suicide and left his car on the tracks.

Earlier this month an emergency was declared on a Metrolink train that had ran a red light and came within a couple hundred feet of an oncoming train. This is the fourth red light violation since the Chatsworth crash in September of 2008. The federal regulators at the Federal Railroad Administration are looking into the multiple violations and are contemplating severe disciplinary actions against the engineer for such a basic safety rule violation. No mechanical problems were found after a huge traffic delay.

After the Chatsworth crash, several safety features were added to the train cars. Specifically cameras in the cab and extra engineers on busy routes. Officials will be reviewing the tapes of this most recent violation thoroughly. Unfortunately this train did not have an extra engineer on hand. The driver has been put on leave pending further investigation.

Currently Metrolink has a federal waiver that allows it to not install simple safety signs, such as reminders to proceed slowly, watch for signal lights status and other warnings. Metrolink officials insist that their current signage is safe, but with local commuter trains sharing the tracks with freight and Amtrak trains, you can never be too cautious.

In 2012 Metrolink intends to install a computerized “positive train control” system. This will enable the train cars to automatically stop if there is an impending collision. For a full list of Metrolink’s safety guidelines, visit their website at www.metrolinktrains.com/safety.

Category: Car Accidents

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