USA: Southern California Regional Rail Authority has taken steps to improve its safety procedures following the September 12 collision between a Metrolink train and a UP freight train in the Los Angeles suburbs which killed 25 people and injured 135. Politicians and railroad officials are seeking to reassure the public that trains are reliable, following the head-on crash on a single-track segment near Chatsworth station on Metrolink’s Ventura County line.

On September 26 the SCRRA board of directors unanimously approved an improvement programme that included putting a second driver in the cab of some trains, creation of a safety peer review panel, evaluation of advanced train control technologies, a review the agency’s operating contract with Veolia Transportation, and an evaluation and updating of SCRRA’s emergency preparedness and response plans.

CEO David Solow was also directed to seek funding for safety enhancements and the implementation of a positive train control system. This will draw on the work of the North American Joint Positive Train Control Programme, which is funded by the Federal Railroad Administration and other sources.

The board’s action came a day after the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority adopted a motion recommending a series of immediate safety improvements. Metro is by far the largest financial contributor to the five-county SCRRA, and both authorities are largely composed of local elected officials.

Many of the recommendations are stopgaps, or cannot be implemented in the short term. Metrolink typically only 10 to 15 spare drivers on any given day, including some to cover for employees who are sick or on vacation. Thus, only a tiny proportion of trains will have two people in the cab. Other measures ordered by the board include placing video cameras in all cabs and installing automatic train stop with cab signalling to slow or stop a train if it passes a signal at danger. Although considered outdated, ATS is used on several commuter rail routes, including 48 km of the Metrolink network in Orange County.

After the meeting, SCRRA Chairman Ron Roberts said ‘the Metrolink board has taken definitive action to continue to be a leader in rail safety in the US. From our soon-to-arrive passenger cars with crash energy management technology to our Sealed Corridor Initiative, Metrolink has consistently been on the leading edge of rail safety. We intend to lead the industry into the next phase of rail safety development.’