Metrolink to replace contractor to avoid train control project delays

Chatsworth Metrolink crash
Metrolink’s project was launched in the aftermath of the 2008 Chatsworth crash that killed 25 people and injured 135
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Southern California’s Metrolink commuter rail agency plans to replace a key subcontractor Friday in an attempt to keep on schedule a $211-million, state-of-the-art collision avoidance system.

The passenger railroad’s board of directors is expected to approve a $6.8-million contract to Wabtec Corp. for an important component of the “Positive Train Control” system that will help dispatchers keep track of trains on Metrolink’s 500-mile network. Officials said the current subcontractor, ARINC, failed to meet deadlines and agreed to the change.

Wabtec has more experience delivering computer-assisted dispatch systems, according to Metrolink officials. Among other things, the company will be required to install a computer server that supports the PTC system.

The six-county commuter rail service, which averages more than 40,000 riders a day, is trying to become the first passenger carrier in the nation to install the high-tech safety technology on its entire system. Positive train control combines computers, digital radio systems and global positioning devices to track trains and take control of them if necessary to prevent collisions, derailments and other accidents.


Metrolink’s project was launched in the aftermath of the 2008 Chatsworth crash that killed 25 people and injured 135. Federal investigators said the technology could have prevented the head-on collision of a Metrolink train with a Union Pacific freight train.

The accident prompted Congress to require U.S. freight and passenger railroads to install positive train control by December 2015. Metrolink officials plan to have their system operational by next January.

The proposed contractor change, if approved, will allow Metrolink to “move forward in an expeditious manner while keeping the overall schedule for positive train control on track to be completed well before the federal deadline,” said Jeff Lustgarten, a spokesman for the commuter line.

A demonstration project for Metrolink’s PTC system is scheduled to begin Feb. 18 on a line that runs to San Bernardino through Los Angeles County, north Orange County and Riverside County.


But before the demonstration project can begin, Metrolink needs to complete 10 consecutive days of successful testing and receive approval from the Federal Railroad Administration.