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Union Pacific official says new train braking system may not meet federal deadline [CORRECTED]

March 4, 2009 |  2:11 pm


A Union Pacific Railroad official told federal authorities today that it was unlikely that the railroad would be able to meet a federal deadline to install high-tech technology that would help prevent deadly collisions on its trains nationwide.

Positive train control is designed to stop a locomotive if an engineer exceeds speed limits or fails to stop at a red warning signal. A federal law passed in the wake of the Metrolink train crash in Chatsworth last fall requires that such systems be in place by 2015. In the Chatsworth incident, a Metrolink engineer sped past a stop signal and crashed head-on with a Union Pacific freight train, killing 25 and injuring 135.

Officials for Metrolink and Union Pacific had vowed to install the technology on their Los Angeles-area trains by 2012, and say they still plan to meet that target date.

But in regard to installing the technology nationwide by 2015, “Right now, I would say that’s not likely,” Jeff Young, assistant vice president for systems development at Union Pacific, said during sworn testimony at a National Transportation Safety Board hearing into the Chatsworth disaster.

The railroad would have to install onboard computers and other equipment in 6,000 locomotives and on trackside warning signals across the nation. Any equipment in Los Angeles would have to be compatible with Metrolink because the two agencies share track.

-- Robert J. Lopez

Corrected, 6:30 p.m.:  A previous post reported that Union Pacific officials did not expect to meet their 2012 target date for Los Angeles-area trains.  In fact, the official said that they did not expect to meet the federal deadline to have the equipment installed on all trains nationwide.  The post also reported that Union Pacific would have to modify 6,000 locomotives in Southern California.  In fact, that number applies to its total U.S. fleet.

Previously on L.A. Now

Metrolink hearing: Signal-calling rules could create safety problems

NTSB official questions national rail safety supervision

Metrolink union opposes video cameras inside locomotives

Federal hearing: Metrolink engineer warned twice about cell use

Federal hearing: Rail enthusiasts sat at controls of Metrolink train

NTSB takes testimony in deadly Metrolink train crash