California Metrolink Lawyers: Metrolink Negligently Failed To Implement An Automatic Stop System - Amtrak Train Crash in Washington State

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September 19, 2008


I agree about the seat belt issues. I was on a public bus once and a lady had to stand and ended up falling over and hitting her head as the driver took off. You should have to SIT on the bus and use a seat belt.

I am not sure why traditional travel type buses do not have seat belts. I kind of understand school buses. Kids get roudy on those.

An insurance student at a university, I am interested in know what types of insurance all interested policies had and what potential lawsuits are out there. Please advise! Thanks

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors has voted to put up $5 million to help Metrolink install an "automatic train stop" system along Los Angeles County commuter rails.

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who's the board chairman, says he knows GPS technology isn't ready yet.

"The automatic train stop technology, while maybe not as good as positive train control could be in the future, is better than nothing," Villaraigosa noted.

Positive train control technology is a system of monitoring and controlling train movements to prevent such collisions using GPS.

Villaraigosa also wants Metrolink to add several safety precautions, including putting a second engineer and video cameras in each locomotive cab.

The MTA Board put commuter rail safety on the agenda in the wake of the Metrolink collision on September 12 that killed 25 people and injured dozens more. The crash happened when a Metrolink train slammed head-on into a Union Pacific freight train near Chatsworth.

LOS ANGELES - Federal officials blamed railroads Monday for refusing their requests to install an expensive safety feature on all U.S. tracks that many say could have prevented Southern California's deadly commuter train crash, which is in use on only 2,600 miles of track out of about 140,000 miles nationwide.

The technology has not been installed on the Los Angeles track where 25 people died in a crash on Friday.

"Many times in this country, we regulate by counting tombstones," said Barry M. Sweedler, former director of the Office of Safety Recommendations for the National Transportation Safety Board.

In Massachusetts, the commuter rail system is equipped with sensor technology designed to stop a train on the tracks if it fails to stop at a signal or if another train is in its path. The system, known as "Cab Signal with Positive Stop," was used in March, when a 112-ton freight car parked at a lumber yard came loose and barreled almost three miles along the tracks toward a commuter rail train carrying 300 passengers during rush hour. The technology sensed the freight train on the tracks and stopped the commuter train.

Metrolink dispatchers use computers to monitor train traffic and send signals to control flow along the tracks. Engineers are required to obey trackside signals, which are then relayed by radio to a conductor on board. Those conversations can be heard by the dispatcher and are recorded.

It remains unclear what, if anything, was said between the engineer and conductor before the crash in Los Angeles. A dispatcher tried to alert the Metrolink engineer about the oncoming train, but the call came too late.

The most basic level of enforcement are the simple Automatic Train Stop (ATS) systems that apply the brakes if a train passes a stop signal. ATS has been widely used on heavy rail transit systems for a long time. A warning can be transmitted to the train on passing an approach aspect requiring a speed reduction. If the warning is not acknowledged, brakes are applied.

From a technology standpoint, the western systems are absolutely pathetic compared to the east coast. While it is true that the motivation for the NEC for the installation of cab signals/ATC was speed, the same cannot be said of NJT's system, for example, which has cab signals installed on over 90% of trackage, even though none of that trackage is rated above 79 mph.

Kitty Higgins, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, told the New York Times that PTC “could have prevented this accident” and confirmed that installing “Positive Train Control” (PTC) might be the answer.

Such systems have been around since the 1920s. The Pennsylvania Railroad installed “cab signal” systems on some of its main routes, including the line from New York City to Washington D.C. now owned by Amtrak.

Cab signals give engineers a replica inside their cabs of the wayside signals outside. Combined with “automatic train control,” passing a stop signal in cab-signal- equipped territory will cause an emergency application of the air brakes.

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