A LEGISLATIVE committee in California investigating the January 26 2005 level crossing collision at Glendale, near Los Angeles, that killed 11 people and injured 200 has called for an end to push-pull working in the state. A sports utility vehicle had been deliberately driven onto the track, triggering a triple collision between two Metrolink commuter trains and a Union Pacific ballast train.

The eight-member committee, chaired by Assembly Majority Leader Dario Frommer, issued a report that said safety would also be improved by eliminating many level crossings, providing better protection at those crossings that remain, and educating the public more effectively about the dangers of railways. But speaking at a news conference, Frommer’s focus was on push-pull operation. ’There is no doubt in my mind that push operations are a killer and should be made illegal’, he said.

Since 1992 Metrolink has had four major collisions in which trains were being pushed, leading to 15 deaths and 330 injuries including Glendale. Frommer wants to see push-pull eliminated in California within three years, affecting four commuter rail operators and three Amtrak inter-city routes.

Push-pull operation is widely used across the world, and there are many thousands of multiple-unit trains where passengers ride in the leading car. Despite Frommer’s concerns, there is no evidence that safety would be significantly improved by a requirement to use a locomotive at the front of the train, a view that was supported by a recent federal report.

Southern California Regional Rail Authority has already announced plans to replace its entire fleet of 42 Metrolink cab cars by new vehicles fitted with ’crash energy management technology’ (RG 1.06 p16).