- Associated Press - Thursday, September 3, 2015

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Metrolink is evaluating the safety of its crash-resistant cars and removing them from the front of trains in the wake of a deadly Southern California derailment, the railroad said Thursday.

The 57 cab cars are passenger coaches that include an engineer’s station. They are used when a locomotive is pushing a train from behind.

The cars, built by South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem, have features designed to reduce deaths and injuries, such as energy-absorbing crush zones. Metrolink, which serves six Southern California counties, began using them in 2010.

Metrolink had said those features reduced the carnage in February when one of its trains struck a pickup truck that mistakenly drove onto the tracks near Oxnard. The crash killed the engineer and injured 27 passengers.

However, the railroad’s review of the accident turned up a possible issue with the cab car, Johnson said.

He declined to be specific, but the Los Angeles Times reported (https://lat.ms/1LOYOqt) that Metrolink wants to determine whether a plow-like attachment on the cab car failed in the collision, allowing debris to get under the wheels and derail it.

“We are taking this step out of an abundance of caution,” said Moorpark City Councilman Keith Millhouse, a member of the railroad’s board of directors, told the Times. “This is an interim measure until the plow can be evaluated and beefed up if necessary. This is going to be costly for the railroad, but you can’t put a price on safety.”

A review of the cab cars began earlier this year, Johnson said. The evaluation could take a year to complete, Millhouse said.

Meanwhile, Metrolink is working on an agreement to place leased locomotives in front the cars by month’s end, spokesman Scott Johnson said.

Johnson said he had no details on the cost of the engines or how long they will be used because the agreement is still being finalized with BNSF Railway. Johnson said he has not heard of any similar concerns with Hyundai Rotem cab cars elsewhere in the nation.

However, the general use of cab cars in front of trains has been raised as a safety issue.

“We have felt they are dangerous,” Tim Smith, California legislative director for the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, told the Times. “Cab cars are light in weight and easy to lift off the tracks. As far as safety is concerned, we would like to have a locomotive out in front.”

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