Metrolink adds crash sys­tem

Of­fi­cials mark in­stal­la­tion of tech­nol­ogy to avoid col­li­sions.

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Dan Weikel dan.weikel@latimes.com Twit­ter: @LADead­line16

A so­phis­ti­cated safety sys­tem that could have pre­vented the deadly Chatsworth train crash in 2008 is now pro­tect­ing Metrolink pas­sen­ger trains that travel on all tracks owned by the com­muter rail­road in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

Rail of­fi­cials an­nounced this week that so- called pos­i­tive train con­trol has been in­stalled on 341 miles of right of way ex­clu­sively be­long­ing to Metrolink, which be­gan rolling out the new tech­nol­ogy last year.

The rail­road con­tin­ues to work with Am­trak, Union Pa­cific, the Burling­ton North­ern Santa Fe Rail­way Co. and the North County Transit Dis­trict in San Diego County to in­stall pos­i­tive train con­trol by year’s end on 171 miles of track the four car­ri­ers share with Metrolink.

Of­fi­cials say that the com­muter rail­road is the first line in the na­tion to have the tech­nol­ogy op­er­at­ing dur­ing reg­u­lar ser­vice on all tracks that it owns.

“This is a time for us to pause, ac­knowl­edge how far we have come and then dou­ble our ef­forts,” said Or­ange County Su­per­vi­sor Shawn Nel­son, chair­man of the Metrolink board of di­rec­tors.

“From the be­gin­ning, our agency was com­mit­ted to have our en­tire sys­tem fully op­er­a­ble with PTC be­fore the De­cem­ber 2015 fed­eral dead­line,” Nel­son said.

Metrolink, which op­er­ates on 512 miles of tracks and av­er­ages about 42,000 riders per weekday, serves six South­ern Cal­i­for­nia coun­ties — Los An­ge­les, Or­ange, River­side, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ven­tura.

Pos­i­tive train con­trol, which re­lies on global po­si­tion­ing satel­lites, dig­i­tal ra­dio com­mu­ni­ca­tions and com­put­ers to track trains, is part of an on­go­ing ef­fort by the rail­road to over­come its poor rep­u­ta­tion for safety af­ter the Chatsworth crash killed 25 peo­ple and in­jured 135.

In that ac­ci­dent, fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­cluded that an engi­neer missed a red stop sig­nal while he was text- mes­sag­ing on his cell­phone and rammed into a Union Pa­cific freight train head- on.

With its com­puter- as­sisted dis­patch­ing and mon­i­tor­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties, Metrolink’s $ 216- mil­lion sys­tem can de­tect when trains vi­o­late speed re­stric­tions, miss sig­nals or en­ter the wrong track.

The tech­nol­ogy can au­to­mat­i­cally take con­trol of the train and ap­ply the brakes in an emer­gency.

For pos­i­tive train con­trol to be com­pleted on Metrolink’s sys­tem, all trains op­er­ated by Am­trak, Burling­ton North­ern, Union Pa­cific and the North County Transit Dis­trict’s Coaster will have to be equipped with the tech­nol­ogy.

In the wake of the Chatsworth crash, Congress passed the Rail Safety Im­prove­ment Act of 2008, which called for the in­stal­la­tion of pos­i­tive train con­trol across the na­tion by the end of 2015.

Rick Loomis

METROLINK HAS added pos­i­tive train con­trol to 341 miles of right of way, but work re­mains on tracks it shares with other car­ri­ers.

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