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Following a horrific crash a decade ago that killed 11 people and injured 180 more, Southern California’s commuter train network began¬†investing time and energy in safer train technology to protect passengers from collisions. This new safety technology is designed with passengers in mind and has appeared to be successful. Another collision occurred in February, when a Metrolink train smashed into a truck just northwest of Los Angeles. Only 28 people were injured, 31 were not, and there were no deaths. Three out of four of the passenger cars, including the “cab” car located at the front of the train has “crash energy management” technology, according to Metrolink. So what is this new technology and why does it work?¬†

This “crash energy management” technology mainly focuses on dispersing energy created by impact away from areas of passenger cars where people sit. According to the Federal Railroad Administration’s report on technology, the cars are engineered with crush zones that collapse unoccupied areas, such as brake and electrical service closets, bicycle storage areas, vestibules, and stairwells. The cab cars at the front of the train are created with a collapsible nose cone, which helps to absorb impact. A Metrolink spokesperson likened the design to creating “giant shock absorbers” for train cars.

The new technology was implemented first in 2010 and by June of 2013, the system had 137 of the crash management cars, bought for $263 million from Hyundai Rotem Inc.

This most recent collision is being used as an opportunity to see if the technology is really working as well as hoped. The initial investigations are indicating that its hard to say, but that the technology made at least some difference. Keith Millhouse, a member of the Metrolink board for 10 years, said, “I believe they probably prevent more significant injuries.”

The Federal Railroad Administration has continued conducting collision testing, comparing the impact destruction of train-to-train crashes with and without the crash management equipment. They hope to incorporate the new technology in more train networks and make the equipment standard.

With safe train technology, train collision related injuries and deaths will largely decrease and hopefully will be almost eliminated. The goal is make traveling by train as safe as possible and with this new crash management technology that seems easily doable. After intensive testing and positive results, the technology will hopefully be disseminated to various train networks around the United States.

About the Author: Steven is a guest contributor from America by Rail, offering the best escorted train tours available.

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