Los Angeles based Metrolink has announced that it will become the first commuter rail system in the country to implement a state-of-the-art collision avoidance technology known as positive train control.
According to a news report in the Los Angeles Times, the system, known as PTC, tracks a train’s speed and position and whether it has run a red light.
The advanced safety system can also stop or slow the train if the driver fails to do so.
Under a federal mandate set forth by the Rail Safety Improvement Act, the PTC system must be installed on all passenger trains by 2015. This mandate was passed a month after the 2008 Chatsworth Metrolink crash, which killed 25 and injured 135 riders.
New Technology Will Save Lives
Train safety experts have said since the 2008 Chatsworth train accident that PTC would have prevented that collision. Although the technology had been available since the 1990s, it was never implemented because of the high cost.
Had Metrolink had the PTC system in place in 2008, it would not have allowed the commuter train to pass the red signal, go out onto the main line and collide with the freight train.
An investigation showed that the driver in that case had been texting moments before the collision.
Officials say this technology would have also prevented the Bronx Metro-North commuter train crash in New York City in December, which resulted in fatalities.
Other commuter rail systems around the country are trying to get the deadline to implement this technology extended to 2020. In Metrolink’s case member agencies are paying roughly half of the $216 million price tag for PTC implementation. The federal government is covering about 9 percent and the state is pitching in with 42 percent.
In 2009, Metrolink and private contractor Connex Railroad paid victims and families of deceased victims $200 million, one of the costliest train accident settlements in the nation’s history.
Plaintiffs’ attorneys estimated the cost of damages to be much more, but federal law sets the cap for passenger rail accidents at $200 million. The price tag of implementing PTC technology today is $216 million.
Had Metrolink implemented PTC before 2008, this catastrophic accident could have been prevented. A horrible tragedy could have been averted.
We hope other commuter rail systems will implement this safety system, which will save lives and help prevent catastrophic train accidents in Los Angeles and nationwide in the future.
The cost of installing these systems is minuscule compared to the cost of injuries, fatalities and damages caused by a traumatic train crash.