Metrolink moves to implement collision prevention technology

The Metrolink Board of Directors on Friday authorized completion of a $120 million contract for a system intended to prevent train-to-train collisions.

The board voted to authorize Chief Executive Officer John E. Fenton to complete the final terms and award the contract to Parsons Transportation Group to manage and integrate Positive Train Control technology on the transportation company's 512-mile system, Metrolink Media Relations Officer Sherita Coffelt said.

The system monitors and controls train movements remotely, preventing train-to-train collisions, unauthorized train movement into a work zone, movement of a train through a switch left in the wrong position and trains exceeding authorized speeds, Coffelt said.

The system will consist of on-board computers, display screens, GPS tracking and radios on 57 cab cars and 52 locomotives and a stop enforcement system at 476 signals.

Changes with the communications include a six-county specialized communication system to link the wayside signals, trains and centralized dispatch office, and the current dispatch system will be replaced with a new one.

"Today's action puts us one step closer to our goal of being the first railroad to implement PTC and the safest rail operator in the nation,'' Metrolink Board Chairman Keith Millhouse said.

"Metrolink has outlined an aggressive implementation schedule that will allow our passengers to be among the first in the nation to benefit from this safety innovation.''

Metrolink is acquiring the system in response to the Sept. 12, 2008 crash of a Metrolink commuter train near Chatsworth that killed 25 people.

Officials said "human error'' by the engineer was responsible for the crash -- he failed to obey a red signal to stop to let a freight train pass.

Later reports indicated the engineer had been texting and may have been distracted when the crash occurred.