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Metrolink's crash-resistant cars are unveiled


Metrolink is unveiling the nation's first crash-resistant commuter rail cars, incorporating years of federal research. The cars are part of a multi-pronged effort to improve safety on the five-county system and shed a record of deadly accidents.

Look here for a detailed, interactive preview of the new cars. And here for more Metrolink coverage and a U.S. Department of Transportation crash test video comparing a conventional commuter rail car and the new energy-absorbing design.

Akin to the crushable bumpers added to automobiles in the 1970s, the 117 high-tech cars, costing a total of $230 million, are the product of years of federal research and a fast-tracked development push by the region's rail service after a horrific accident five years ago in Glendale.

Another deadly collision in 2008 exposed lax safety practices.

The agency hopes its voluntary deployment of the innovative train cars in the fall — after a summer of testing and federal certification — will mark a milestone in its effort to rebuild public trust and reassure its customers.

-- Rich Connell

Comments () | Archives (3)

Good job on finally doing this, too bad no one else has adopted this system.

Rail cars have long been devoid of even the most basic crash handling design; they're where cars where in the 1930s. Millions of people were still using ice for refrigerators back then.

Most rail cars have hard surfaces to break your bones on which don't bend in a collision, yet the seats and table will break loose completely in a severe crash and become missiles. The coach cars, about a hundred feet long do not have even two feet of crush space.

A mere 3 ft total controlled crush at each end means that the 2nd car (or the 1st if the locomotive has a crushable appendage) get six feet of cushioning - enough to change the outcome from death into some memorable but recoverable injuries. Further back passengers would feel a bump and perhaps a bruise but could walk out of upright train cars.

Further, an expendable nose section, longer than on the current loco could easily be added, somewhat like the yellow absorbers parked at highway construction sites though obviously far stronger. Ten feet of decel at only 15g absorbs about a 40mph collision into an immovable barrier, which equals a head-on collision with a mirror image train at the same speed or roughly an 80mph crash into an identical parked train. In other words, a really bad collision. Without seatbelts, passengers would be tossed around, but within the week they'd be OK to drive themselves to their attorney's office.

Unlike the case with a car, the extra weight and length are immaterial on a train. Materials can be cheap for such a device - it's easy to design a good collapsible box when it's meant to be expendable.

Now if you could just keep the operators from texting ....

What I understood of the video was very interesting, but couldn't understood what the second engineer was saying. Can you provide a transcript for your readers?


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