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Los Angeles, California

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Paul Kiesel
Paul Kiesel
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Metrolink is Still Dragging Its Heels on Safety

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Metrolink has decided to improve its safety technology by implementing its commuter trains with automatic train stop devices designed to prevent train collisions. This type of safety device may be new to Metrolink, however, it’s been around since the 1940s.

So in response to California’s most deadly commuter train accident in modern history, Metrolink decides to respond by implementing safety devices that could have been installed 15, 30 or 60 years ago?

Metrolink’s board voted on the proposal to install the automatic train stops on Friday, but it was not clear when the devices would be installed and how much it would cost. Experts believe that had the automatic train stops been installed prior to the September 12, 2008 Chatsworth collision, it would not have necessarily prevented it from occurring. All automatic train stops provide is the ability to slow the train down to a stop in case of an emergency. The Chatsworth accident, which was caused when the engineer (who was text messaging) missed a red light, would not have been avoided with this type of technology because there wouldn’t have been enough time for the train to slow down to a stop.

This news is even more frustrating as Metrolink has largely ignored government recommendation to provide adequate safety technology that is suppose to be at the forefront of preventing avoidable accidents. Automatic train stops might have been considered adequate in the 1940s, but with better technology available and proven, Metrolink needs to be accountable and prevent these types of accidents from occurring again. Many experts believe that the Chatsworth accident could have been avoided, had postive train control been installed on the commuter train.

Of course, Metrolink says it plans to install the more sophisticated positive train control system, which uses a global positioning system and can engage the brakes if a train fails to heed signals and/or gets on the wrong track. But after everything that’s taken place in the last two weeks, one would think that now, not later, is the time to implement the most current technology to avoid this from happening again. Therefore, the question remains: What does eventually look like for Metrolink?