Wisner Baum Attorney Testimony on Train Safety to the California State Assembly in 2005
Paul Hedlund testified as follows:
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has been working with the (1) Volpe National Transportation System Center (Volpe Center) to conduct research into rail equipment crashworthiness. The approach in conducting this research has been to propose strategies for improved crashworthiness and to apply analytic tools and testing techniques for evaluating the effectiveness of those strategies.
The overall objective of the rail equipment crashworthiness research is to develop design strategies with improved crashworthiness over existing designs.
The two crash tests conducted for Rail Equipment Crashworthiness Research and Passenger Equipment Crashworthiness as seen on the Volpe website, demonstrate existing cab car crash test results and the improved cab car crash test results.
1) The first test is a Fullscale Testing of Passenger Equipment – Cab car-led train impact with locomotive-led train, January 31, 2002:
The test shows the impact of an initially moving cab car-led train with an initially standing locomotive-led train at 30 miles per hour, and also shows the dynamic response of a test dummy inside the locomotive. The first view shows the cab car coming in from the left and impacting the standing locomotive, which is on the right side of the frame. The cab car initially crushes, and then the impact end starts to rise. The end of the cab car continues to rise as the cab car crushes, and the cab car overrides the locomotive. Eventually, the cab car overlaps the locomotive by approximately 20 feet. The camera pans as the locomotive-led train begins to move. Once the locomotive-led train is moving faster than the cab car-led train, the end of the cab car slides off the locomotive and falls to the ground. There is very little structural damage to the locomotive during the impact. The second view shows a test dummy in the operator’s seat of the locomotive. The roof of the cab car is initially visible through the windshield of the locomotive. The unrestrained test dummy is jostled in his seat, and then thrown forward. The window structure of the locomotive is distorted by the impact of the cab car, and a portion of the cab car roof comes through the windshield on the conductor’s side.
2) The second test is a Fullscale Testing of Passenger Equipment – Single-car impact with fixed barrier, November 16, 1999 and December 3, 2004:
This test shows the impact of a single conventional rail passenger car into a fixed barrier and the impact of an improved-crashworthiness rail passenger car into a fixed barrier. Both impacts occur at approximately 35 miles per hour. The impact of the conventional car is shown first.
The conventional car comes in from the right, and impacts the barrier, which is on the left side of the frame. The impact is shown in real-time and then in slow motion. During the impact, the car is crushed (reduced in length) by approximately six feet. This crush eliminates the space for the first row of passenger seats. The test shows the four left side windows nearest the impact end of the car windows popping out. There is a significant amount of dust and debris that obscures the impact interface. The impact end of the car can be seen rising by approximately 9 inches as the car body structure crushes. Near the maximum amount of car crush, the wheels of the truck at the impact end are up off the rails.
The improved-crashworthiness car also comes in from the right, and impacts the barrier, which is on the left side of the frame. The impact is shown in real-time and in slow motion. During the impact, the car is crushed by approximately three feet. While the vestibule at the end of the car is crushed, the space for the passenger seats remains intact. The car remains nearly level as it crushes. The wheels remain in contact with the rails, although the lead wheel set continues to rotate after the forward motion of the car has been stopped.
Other Train Safety Recommendations Suggested by Our Metrolink Clients
Ban “Push/Pull” Train Operations
Impose heavy penalties and prison time for train safety violators. FRA Emergency Order 20 (Emergency Order Requiring Enhanced Operating Rules and Plans for Ensuring the Safety of Passengers Occupying the Leading Car of a Train) was issued in 1996 after two fatal crashes involving push-pull operations. This order (http://www.fra.dot.gov/us/content/820) was published as a result of an FRA investigation into the New Jersey Transit accident, Secaucus, N.J. on 2/9/96 and the MARC accident, Silver Spring, Md. on 2/16/96. Both of these accidents involved casualties in so-called “push/pull” operations with the consist [the group of rail vehicles which make up a train] being pushed by a locomotive at the rear. That report noted that “cab cars are lighter” and “occupants of cab cars may incur a significantly higher risk of serious injury when compared with occupants of a locomotive-hauled [train]. A plan for safer operations involving push-pull operations was to have been created. To our knowledge this train safety plan was never made public.
The cab car weighs approximately 110,000 lbs. The engine weighs 2-3 times that amount.
Everyone knows, and we all know, that pulling is more stable than pushing.
Prevent Motorists From Driving Down the Tracks
Big bushes should be planted and barriers must be placed on both sides of all railroad tracks in cities and rural areas in order to prevent and to make it difficult for any vehicle to enter onto the tracks.
Two Gates at Every Crossing
Every single railroad crossing should have two automatic gates, one on each side, to prevent any and all vehicles from entering the tracks. There should be no unprotected crossings.
Radar/Sensors on Every Track to Alert Operators of Obstruction
Radar detection and/or sensors should exist on all tracks for detection of objects at the crossing or anywhere along the tracks as well as any breaks in the track itself. Honeywell has a radar scanner which is an automatic monitoring system for detection of objects (roadway traffic) located between the gates of a level crossing. It increases train safety for people and vehicles crossing the tracks, especially if they are trapped in full barrier level crossings, and it works under all weather conditions.
Enhanced Night-Vision for Operators
Infrared night-vision technology is dirt cheap now and readily available for improving train safety. If the southbound Metrolink train operator had seen the Jeep sooner, he may have been more inclined to warn everyone to brace, over the PA.
Two Tracks on Every Route
In order to prevent head-on collisions, build two railroad tracks on each route; one track for northbound trains and the other for southbound, one eastbound and the other for westbound trains.
Many countries in Europe like Germany, France, England, Spain, Italy, etc., have two railroad tracks for each route.
In our country many areas have only one (1) railroad track which is shared by trains traveling in opposite directions.
Underpasses and Overpasses Instead of Roadway Crossings
This would drastically reduce the potential for vehicles on the tracks by stalled motorists, terrorists or suicidal people.
Turnarounds for All Trains So All Train Operations Are Pulled
More turnarounds should be built so trains can turn around so the engine is always pulling the cab cars. Also “wye” tracks already exist in many locations that could be used for this purpose.
Crashworthiness and Cab-Car Improvements Including Shock Absorbers
Even with the hopeful ban of the use of push-pull operations, cab cars need to be better built to withstand crashes. In some incidents, cab cars have been rear-ended. With the installation of a “cowcatcher” or corner posts and steel reinforcement or bumpers, cab cars would be able to hold up better in the event of a collision. The placement of shock absorbers would also help provide further train safety by buffering the impact of a crash.
The 40-page FRA study in 1996, “Locomotive Crashworthiness Research – Volume 5: Cab Car Crashworthiness Report” (DOT/FRA/ORD-95/08.5) concluded among other things that “Substantial crush appears likely at closing speeds above approximately 35 mph for the situation in which a cab car, just satisfying the federal requirements, is in a push-pull configuration and collides with a locomotive” and “Generally, the results indicate that for commuter train configurations of the push-pull type in which a cab car could sustain an accident at a closing speed in excess of 35 mph without experiencing substantial crush to both the control cab and the passenger compartment. The result of such crush would likely cause severe injury or fatality of the vehicle occupants.”
Cameras at Each Railroad Crossing With Fines for Violations
Just as the police have cameras at many intersections in order to catch violators and revenue for the city, the same should be done for railroad crossings. A hefty fine of at least $1,000.00 should be levied on violators.
Seat Belts for Every Seat
Seat belts should be available on all trains in every seat. It will be up to the passenger to use it, but having it as a train safety option will save lives as has been proven in the auto industry.
Speed-Limit Set at 45 M.P.H. Near Roadway Crossings
This is for obvious reasons as slower speeds will result in reduced damage in the event of a crash.
Button Activation for Crash Preparation Triggering Automatic Brakes, Alarm System, Audible PA to Brace and Flashing Lights for the Deaf
In cases of an emergency the train operator would push a button or flip a switch that would automatically hit the breaks, audibly alert the passengers to brace themselves for a collision, and trigger flashing lights for deaf passengers. Or a system in which once the emergency brake is activated then these other train safety warnings are automatically activated as well.
Better and Proper Train Safety and Disaster Training for Operators, Similar to What Flight Attendants Receive
The behavior of the surviving operator in the Metrolink train crash shows omitted training. Just as an example, flight attendants’ first priority is passenger safety and accident preparation.
The operator is the captain of the ship and should not be allowed to abandon his or her passengers.
1) The John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is an internationally recognized center of transportation and logistics expertise. Through research and development, engineering, and analysis, the Volpe Center helps decision-makers define problems and pursue solutions to lead transportation into the 21st century. In essence, the Volpe Center is a catalyst for innovation-a source of critical insight necessary to realize transportation’s promising future.