As Metrolink lurches from crisis to crisis, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry:
“We knew we were going to have a rough year,” said Gary Lettengarver, chief operating officer for Metrolink. “Conflicts with freight trains plus track construction were problems. And we’re learning to use positive train control. This is a technology no one really knows about.“
Good Lord. PTC is a critical safety system — and nobody knows how it works?
Last year, Metrolink became the first commuter railroad in the nation to implement so-called PTC. Rail officials said they are still fine-tuning the system to prevent it from unnecessarily stopping trains — a problem that resulted in 613 delays. Resetting the onboard equipment, they add, takes up to 20 minutes.
“We are one of the first railroads in the world to have positive train control,” said Art Leahy, Metrolink’s chief executive. “We have a learning curve, and we’ve had to debug the system.”
Leahy must have been living under a rock for the past 15 years, if he really believes Metrolink was the first railroad in the world to install PTC.
Adding to the delays, officials said, were unwarranted activations of positive train control, mechanical problems, operational issues and the use of slow freight locomotives to replace all 57 of Metrolink’s cab cars at the front of trains. After the Metrolink crash in February 2015 near Oxnard, the railroad decided to remove its cab cars from the lead position because of concerns about substandard front-end deflectors that are designed to keep debris and wreckage from getting under the wheels. Rail officials said the large freight locomotives were used on the line for only 10 days in December. They proved slower than passenger engines, and their size, plus the added cars, increased the length of trains, complicating the unloading of passengers because they were too big for station platforms.
As discussed previously, the defective cab cars was a self-inflicted problem. Instead of using service-proven rolling stock, the agency went with a untested design that obviously needs a lot of debugging.
Metrolink officials said they are dealing with the delays and have created a team to visit commuter railroads elsewhere in the U.S. to study how they prevent and cope with late trains.
Oh, great. So they are going to fix the problems by sending staff off on junkets to observe other crappy Amurican commuter railroads.