Metrolink unveils fleet of safer rail cars

RIVERSIDE, Calif. The new cars are slated to be rolling through /*Metrolink*/ stations by the end of 2010. The builder says that these cars are among the safest cars in the entire country, if not the entire world.

Monday, two of the brand new rail cars were unveiled. A total of 117 are on order.

Completely redesigned inside and out, they're equipped with collapsible nose cones and fireproof upholstery.

The goal is to bring Metrolink to the front of the line when it comes to passenger safety.

The unveiling of the $230 million project comes about a year and a half after the horrific crash in /*Chatsworth*/ on Sept. 12, 2008, that killed 25 and injured 135 others.

Monday, Metrolink officials were happy to be in the headlines for other reasons.

"Metrolink will no longer be talked about in whispers," said /*MTA*/ board member Richard Katz. "Metrolink will be the standard by which every other rail car company or provider in the country is judged."

The new /*rail cars*/ feature an advanced bumper system that is designed to crumple in such a way that the train won't tip and fall over off the tracks during a collision. The rail cars also have an elevated train compartment and push-back couplers to help keep the train on the track.

"We are going to be in short order, if we're not there already, the leader in the country in setting the standard for safety," said Katz.

However, the Chatsworth disaster wasn't caused by equipment malfunction. It was caused, rather, by operator error.

The /*National Transportation Safety Board*/ ruled that the engineer ran a red light before the crash.

Metrolink CEO /*Jim Fenton*/ is mindful of the fact that safety is about much more than cutting edge technology.

"I want to remind everyone, safety is not just about innovative railcars. Safety begins and ends with our people, people who believe in each other, people who have a zero tolerance for bad decisions and unsafe acts," said Fenton.

Metrolink says they're aiming to install a new car at the front and back of as many trains as possible. Each new car costs $1.7 million, and they hope to have all 117 cars phased in within 18 months. The project is expected to create more than 50 jobs because most of the assembly will be done in Southern California.

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