U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) will be on hand Thursday for the debut of a sophisticated rail safety system for Metrolink, a technology she pushed for following the deadly Chatsworth crash in 2008.

Feinstein, a sponsor of the Railway Safety Improvement Act, will be among local dignitaries, Metrolink board members and Federal Railroad Administration officials who have been invited to the unveiling of the commuter line's positive train control system.

PHOTOS: Metrolink crash in Chatsworth

Metrolink, which serves six Southern California counties and carries about 42,000 passengers a day, is the first commuter railroad in the nation to put the sophisticated collision avoidance system into operation.

Positive train control relies on global positioning satellites, digital radio communications and computers to monitor trains. In an emergency, it can automatically override the engineer and apply the brakes to avoid an accident.

The debut at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles and includes a round-trip demonstration run to Fullerton.

Positive train control is part of an ongoing effort at Metrolink to overcome its poor reputation for safety in the wake of the Chatsworth crash in September 2008. Twenty-five people were killed and 135 injured in a head-on collision with a Union Pacific freight train.

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dan.weikel@latimes.com 

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