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Crushed with success

01 May 2006

HAVING WATCHED the first practical test of Crash Energy Management at Pueblo on March 23, US Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta declared it a success.

A five-car train of decommissioned LIRR and SEPTA commuter coaches rebuilt with strengthened couplers and crush zones was slammed into a stationary locomotive and two wagons at a speed of 50 km/h. Deformation of the leading car was limited to the front 900mm, compared to 6·1m of an unmodified car in an earlier test.

The reinforced car was also equipped with new seats containing more padding and tables with crushable edges. Subject to the evaluation of data from crash dummies aboard the train, Mineta said passengers should survive a crash at up to 58 km/h rather than 24 km/h for current stock.

Much of the pressure to develop CEM has come from a spate of collisions with road vehicles at level crossings. Later the same day, Mineta joined SCRRA CEO David Solow at the site of the fatal Glendale crash in Los Angeles. `By smashing a few trains in the desert, we hope to find new ways to keep millions of commuters safer every day', explained the Transportation Secretary.

Metrolink is the first US operator to order CEM-equipped vehicles (RG 4.06 p177). All existing cab cars will be replaced, although Solow said CEM would probably not have made much difference in last year's incident because multiple trains were involved.