Southern California’s Metrolink: Will it lease locomotives or cut service?

September 25, 2015

Faced with an unspecified problem with the type of train car that derailed in Oxnard in February, the Metrolink board will weigh today whether to spend an estimated $19 million on leased locomotives or cut daily commuter rail service in six Southern California counties by about half.Website Insert Call Me State DOTs copy

A recent Metrolink review of its Hyundai-Rotem cab cars revealed a “possible issue,” agency officials have said. In February, a Metrolink commuter train with a Hyundai-Rotem cab car in front hit a pickup truck in a grade crossing outside Oxnard, sparking a fiery derailment that killed one and injured 33.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the cause of the derailment. Amid the investigation, Metrolink officials have met behind closed doors in recent weeks and have declined to disclose the nature of the problem with the Rotem cars.

“It’s all sort of shrouded in mystery,” said Paul Dyson, president of Rail Passengers Association of California and Nevada. “If it’s a safety issue, if it’s a serious safety issue, why are they still running them?”

South Korea-based Hyundai Rotem Co. did not respond to requests for comment.

Metrolink rolled out its $263 million fleet of Rotem cars a few years ago, touting the crash-absorbing technology. The cars, equipped with an engineering control cab, operate in front of a train when it’s pushed by a locomotive.

But the Oxnard derailment raised “questions that we don’t know the answers to as yet,” Metrolink board member Keith Millhouse said of issues surrounding the cars.

Leasing 40 locomotives from freight operator Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co., Millhouse said, “is being considered to err on the side of conservatism.”

The Rotem cars would remain as passenger cars, with locomotives in front of them.

The Orange County Register staff writer Nicole Knight Shine has the full story by clicking here.


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