Metrolink touts safety changes on 10-year anniversary of devastating crash

Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Metrolink touts safety changes on 10 year anniversary of deadly crash
EMBED <>More Videos

Metrolink has invested in safety changes on its trains to prevent deadly crashes.

CHATSWORTH, Calif. (KABC) -- Wednesday marks 10 years since the deadliest crash in Metrolink's history.

Twenty-five people were killed and more than 100 others were injured when a Metrolink commuter train collided head-on with a freight train near Chatsworth, crumbling passenger cars and leading to desperate rescues in the fiery rubble.

Now, a decade later, Metrolink's CEO Art Leahy, showed Eyewitness News the safety changes that have been made on every Metrolink train since, so a deadly crash like that never happens again.

"It's horrific," Leahy said, describing the crash scene 10 years ago. "It creates images in your mind that will never go away."

The commuter rail line had a $200 million dollar computer system called Positive Train Control installed three years ago. The system sounds an alert if there is a stopped or oncoming train on the same track.

Alerts also sound if the engineer is going too fast for an upcoming curve. If the engineer doesn't react to the alert, the PTC computer takes over, and slows the train down. Leahy said PTC would have prevented the Chatsworth crash had it been installed 10 years ago.

"What would have happened is our train would have detected the presence of the freight train that was stopped," Leahy said. "In addition to that, on the freight train there would have been PTC which would have detected the presence of our train, and both trains would have stopped before they collided."

Leahy said PTC would have even kicked in while the Metrolink engineer at the controls a decade ago was distracted. According to investigators, the engineer was texting moments before the deadly crash. Cameras are now clearly present above where the train engineers sit.

"So if something unusual happens in the train, we can go back and look at the video and see what was going on," Leahy said.

The CEO also said he has not been made aware of a single engineer using a phone on the job during his four years as CEO of Metrolink.

There are also new crash emergency management cars on the trains that can absorb energy better during impact, helping to redistribute the force of a crash.

Amid the changes, Congress has also issued a deadline for all trains nationwide to have PTC installed by the end of 2018 -- a deadline Leahy said will likely pass without everyone on board.

"I'm not sure at all that every railroad will have PTC," Leahy said. "There's been a great deal of resistance because of high cost."

He believes the cost for the system is justified to save lives and make sure another deadly crash never happens again.