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Last delivery of new rail cars enhances safety of Metrolink fleet

Railway DisastersTransportation DisastersMetrolinkRailway TransportationNetworkingUnion Pacific CorporationMoby

Spurred by two deadly crashes since 2005, Metrolink has now replaced almost all its fleet of aging rail cars with a state-of-the-art model designed to better protect passengers and crews during crashes.

Officials for the commuter railroad announced Tuesday that they had taken delivery this month of the last of 137 passenger cars purchased for $263.3 million from Hyundai Rotem Inc. in South Korea.

Dubbed the "Guardian Fleet" by Metrolink, the Rotem cars have energy-absorbing crumple zones and other safety measures now required by the federal government -- improvements that Metrolink pushed hard to make after a deadly Glendale crash that killed 11 in 2005.

Officials say the new cars mark a milestone in the railroad's effort to regain public trust following the Glendale tragedy and the 2008 collision with a Union Pacific freight train in Chatsworth that left 25 dead and 135 hurt.

"Metrolink has gone to great lengths to improve safety protocols throughout our agency and is now leading the nation in rail safety technology," said San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris, board chairman of the railroad.

With more than 500 miles of track, Metrolink serves six counties, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Ventura. It averages about 41,000 boardings a day.

The Hyundai deals involved 117 cars that have already been delivered and another 20 bought at a discount of $1 million per car that arrived between January and June.

Their safety features include piston-like, push back car frames and couplers that transfer crash energy around passengers to the rear of the train.

Also on the list of improvements are redesigned seats, breakaway tables, fire retardant materials, anti-derailing devices and improved escape and rescue access.

In addition to buying new rail cars, Metrolink has been working on positive train control, a sophisticated collision-avoidance system that relies on global-positioning satellites, computers and digital communications to track trains.

The federal government required the nation’s railroads to install the technology in the wake of the Chatsworth crash. Metrolink officials say it will be in operation on a portion of their line later this year and systemwide by spring 2014, well ahead of the December 2015 deadline.

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Twitter: @DanielJosephWei

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