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New train safety system unveiled with '08 Metrolink crash in mind

September 10, 2012 |  8:32 am

Metrolink crash
Transportation officials are scheduled to unveil a safety measure Monday morning designed to keep trains from colliding even in case of human error.

The system uses global positioning system technology to keep track of trains, and if two get too close or appear to be in other danger, a computer will warn the engineer and can also automatically apply the brakes.

Called "positive train control" technology, the system will be implemented by rail providers nationwide including Metrolink, BNSF, Union Pacific Railroad and Amtrak in Southern California.

The upgrade is in response to the Sept. 12, 2008 crash that killed 25 people and hurt 135 others when a Metrolink train crashed head-on into a Union Pacific train minutes after leaving the Chatsworth station.

Federal investigators blamed the crash on an engineer steering the Metrolink train who failed to see a stop signal because he was texting on his cellphone.

Four years later, some victims of the crash say they have not been adequately compensated for their injuries because of a federal liability cap.

Only a year after a Los Angeles judge rationed the available funds among 126 people, some victims are running out of money for care and counseling, according to an earlier Times story.


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Photo: A Metrolink passenger train and a Union Pacific freight train crash in Chatsworth in September 2008, the deadliest rail collision in modern California history, prompted mandates to modernize the nation's rail safety systems. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times