Sep 22, 2008
On Friday afternoon, September 12, 25 people were killed and 135 injured when a Metrolink commuter train and a Union Pacific freight train collided head-on near Los Angeles.
The Metrolink bosses hurried to report that the engineer had run a red light. But then they had to backtrack – only their office computers showed that! Then they said he’d been text messaging. Backtrack again – the texts could have been from any time during the day.
The bosses quickly used whatever flimsy fact they had at hand to blame the engineer, so they could duck their own responsibilities!
Railroads across the country, including the Metrolink and the Union Pacific systems, have refused since 1976 to install national “positive train control” systems which use GPS satellite tracking to automatically stop trains that run red signals. Instead, they make the lives of hundreds of passengers per train depend only on the alertness and health of one engineer. Then, they create work schedules for those engineers which guarantee continual fatigue!
The dead engineer, Robert Sanchez, worked “split shift.” He started work before 6 in the morning, had a few hours break between trains, and then worked until 9 at night. The Friday afternoon crash was his fifth day on that schedule, which he worked week after week.
After a similar Metrolink accident in 2005 that killed 3 and injured 260, the conductor said “everyone knows you don’t get much sleep” working for a railroad.
After the 2005 crash, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended – not for the first time! – that positive train control be installed. The railroads said it was too expensive – as they have said after every fatal crash since 1976! – and that was the end of that.
A retired senior director of the NTSB said, “I’m not surprised that once again there has been a terrible, preventable train collision. It’s extremely frustrating. They know what to do to solve these things.”
Yes, the bosses know what to do, all right – pocket all the money they can, while they blame all the accidents on the workers whom they push beyond their limits!