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Scrutiny of passenger train safety in Southern California, Part 2

Our blog post today continues with a theme we initially addressed in an entry from last week, namely, commuter train safety in Southern California.

Our October 20 post detailed train-related events of major importance and concern that have occurred in the region and that have been tragically bookmarked by two seminal occurrences. As we noted in last week's post, a 2008 freight train/Metrolink commuter train collision occurring in Chatsworth killed 28 people. And just a few short months ago, another deadly Metrolink crash played out near Oxnard, when a truck and train collided at a crossing. That accident took the life of a train engineer and injured 28 passengers.

Those tragic fatal commuter train accidents have spurred Metrolink officials concerned with safety and public relations to make a substantial change to the commuter trains that serve six counties across Southern California, including Ventura County.

The Metrolink board recently approved a one-year lease -- intended as a temporary fix pending further study and safety actions -- with an engine provider that will add 40 locomotives to the company's fleet of cars.

Those engines will replace the so-called "Rotem cab cars" manufactured by Hyundai that Metrolink has been using. Those cars have been in use by the company as lead cars that double as passenger coaches and engineer compartments. They have been highly touted for their perceived effectiveness in reducing crash impacts and promoting overall safety.

That assumed efficacy was called into question in the Oxnard crash, given that the lead cab car derailed, with several trailing cars following suit. The National Transportation Safety Board is still investigating the crash and its contributing factors.

In the interim, the leased locomotives -- which are heavier than the cab cars -- will feature at both the front and back of all Metrolink trains.

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