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Signs may have helped avoid Chatsworth crash

December 17, 2009 12:55:06 AM PST
It's been more than a year since the worst accident in Metrolink's history. While steps have been taken to make the train system safer, a new report shows Metrolink could still do more.The report from the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) concludes that Metrolink bypassed a federal requirement intended to help avoid deadly crashes like the 2008 accident in Chatsworth.

Metrolink had received a waiver not to put the simple safety signs in place, but the PUC found that those signs may have prevented the Chatsworth train accident that killed 25 people. The signs basically warn engineers to watch their speed.

Metrolink's new CEO Eric Haley promises the agency will take a look at installing the signs. The former CEO stepped down last week, in part due to the controversy surrounding the fatal crash.

"This is basically an approach that is not a fail-safe solution, having intermediate signing, and I think it needs to be discussed with the full board of directors," Haley said.

More than a decade ago, Metrolink argued the signs were confusing, and they were granted a federal waiver. But in the wake of the Chatsworth crash, the PUC study found the signs should be installed.

Investigators determined that the engineer operating the train was distracted when the commuter train slammed head-on into a freight train. He was on his cell phone and went right through a red light, which was determined to be the primary cause of the crash.

But the PUC found that if the signs were in place, it could have been one more factor that may have made the engineer more alert.

Since the Chatsworth crash, Metrolink has put cameras in the trains to watch the engineers to make sure they're not distracted.

The PUC found the best way to prevent another accident is to install positive train control systems, which is a computerized system to make sure you don't have two trains on the tracks at the same time.


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