Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Metrorail Shows Good Thinking

Just got my November '08 copy of Railway Track and Structures, and was pleased to read a story about how Metrorail dealt with a Track Inspector who failed to identify poor track (scroll down to October 17) that ultimately led to the derailment on June 9th of Train 905 near their Court House Station. I read this article wondering if that Inspector was "let go" as a result. I was gratified that such was not the case!

I was even more gratified to read that Metrorail has put into place a great deal of effort to insure that a similar superficial inspection was less likely to happen again. The inspector was not fired, but retrained. Further, Metrorail has installed a new Track Inspector Certification Program involving both written and other practical exams, and has made the Program mandatory for not only new but also current Track Inspectors. I was amazed to read that Metrorail employs a total of thirty-seven track inspectors, and that they all had completed the new training program by mid-October.

To be sure, as you read the article you will learn that the inspector failed to comply with many existing directives. To be sure, readers of Rip Track have, in the past, been critical of some of Metrorail's policies and operational practices. But this has to be seen as a step in the right direction when compared with what was traditionally done.

When I was climbing up the engineering organizational chart, the normal procedure was to send a new recruit out to inspect track without much more training than that recruit had learned as a laborer/machine operator/foreman. Such training could be good or bad, depending on who the recruit had worked for. In other words, a good boss equaled good training, and vice versa. If the new recruit was lucky, and learned the nuances of his trade, survival! If, on the other hand, the recruit shared the experience of our Metrorail Inspector, it was "back to your tools."

Metrorail's approach is better, more proactive. Good on 'em!

And, Happy Thanksgiving, too!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

SCRRA Crash Today . . .

Metrolink (SCRRA) is still having bad luck. A Metrolink Train sideswiped a freight train in Rialto, California. The story is here, at least as much as there is now.

There have been recent developments in the Chatsworth disaster, too. Rip is putting together some links and some thoughts that will hopefully be up soon.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Short Lines, not as long but just as wide: Election Results!

Not the results you already know about, but other important results. It was a big day for many Rail Commuter and Transit Agencies last Tuesday. For the most part, voters strongly supported tax and bond issues to fund construction and expansion of Commuter Rail and Light Rail projects. The NRC reviews many outcomes. A blog at Progressive Railroading comments as well.

APTA makes a sweeping comment about the vast number of projects awaiting funding, projects already approved and ready to go.

The old voting patterns remain: Areas that have rail transit know the benefits and support these projects; areas that do not (ie. Kansas City) reject them. Many have wondered if recent lower gasoline prices gave some voters a short memory concerning our undesireable dependence on foreign oil.

An example of a city that has embraced Light Rail Transit is Portland, Oregon. Congrats are in order for the area, as the new Westside Rail Commuter Line is about to be opened. There is no doubt in my mind that cities like Portland will thrive in the future while cities like Kansas City will not, simply due to the investment made in rail transit infrastructure.

Another issue: When will the economy pick up? I have no better idea than anyone else, but I do know an excellent indicator. When centerbeam flatcars such as these are no longer seen stored along lonely desert sidings, the recovery will be underway!