With the fourth anniversary on Wednesday of the deadly crash in Chatsworth in 2008 that killed 25 people and injured 135 — many critically — aboard a Metrolink train, transportation officials on Monday showed media the work they're doing to ensure that something similar never happens again.
The technology is called positive train control, or PTC. It's a GPS-based system that tracks the movement of trains across the region and is capable of stopping trains before they run into trouble. Although PTC is found on a few other stretches of track in the United States, it's hardly widespread — although its implementation is mandated by 2015 by federal law for most rail providers (some of which are trying to push back the deadline).
Metrolink has installed PTC technology on a test train — seen in the accompanying photos — that is presently being used after hours on tracks in the Inland Empire. In addition, several SUVs capable of running on railroad tracks are testing the technology on tracks throughout the region. Metrolink's goal is to have the system fully implemented by 2013.
“Let me begin by saying to those who survived and to the families who lost loved ones, we know there is nothing that can soften your pain or comfort you through these times,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said at the event on Monday. “We want you to know as well that we won't ever forget and the work being shown here today is in their memory.”
Metrolink Board Chair Richard Katz said, succinctly, that in the wake of the Metrolink crash, the agency is committed to becoming the safest in the nation. Metrolink has secured $201 million for PTC — money it cobbled together from a number of sources.
It's a lot of work and is budgeted at costing about $210 million, which Metrolink has secured from local, state and federal sources. The plan is to put PTC technology on 52 cab cars, 56 locomotives and to install stop enforcement systems at 476 trackside signals. The equipment on trains and trackside, as well as in a central office, must be linked with a variety of communications technology.
“NTSB officials said back in 1990 that PTC was being added to the most wanted list of safety improvements,” said Debbie Hersman, the chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board. “…We believe every year that this is delayed will cost lives that otherwise would be saved.”
Metrolink is funded by Metro, on behalf of Los Angeles County, as well as the other four counties it primarily serves — Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura. Metrolink is the third-largest commuter rail agency in the U.S. based on route miles and the seventh largest in terms of ridership.