Controls protect Frontrunner trains, Trax depends on operators to manage curves

Controls protect Frontrunner trains, Trax depends on operators to manage curves (Photo: KUTV)

KUTV) – A safety system that may have prevented a deadly train derailment in Washington state earlier this month protects the Utah Transit Authority’s FrontRunner trains.

“Positive Train Control” alerts a train operator if they are approaching a curve too fast. In the event that the warnings are ignored, the system will bring the train to a stop.

“UTA has had elements of positive train control in our system since we’ve opened Frontrunner,” U-T-A’s chief safety and security officer Dave Goeres told 2News. “[An overspeed train derailment] cannot happen here on our FrontRunner system.”

While the system protects the 90 miles of FrontRunner line, the smaller Trax trains depend on the operator to manage curve speeds.

Operator error caused a Trax train to go off the rails near a platform in Salt Lake City in May 2016.

“That was the only over speed derail we have had on our system, and so that is something that we took very seriously and wanted to make sure we have no incidents since then,” Goers said.

Exclusive video obtained by 2News shows the train leave the Central Pointe station heading southbound. The operator, who didn’t normally run a Green line train, thought he was going straight when he propelled the train to 38 mph on what should have been a 10 mph curve, according to the agency’s report.

The train jumped off the line and skid into the rocks. A witness at the time told 2News that the train “jiggled and jaggled”, throwing passengers around the cab. Several people were taken to the hospital, but U-T-A says nobody was seriously injured in the crash.

In response to the Trax derailment, U-T-A reduced the speed of trains approaching and departing the station. A standalone radar sign also indicates train speeds to conductors who are approaching the curve where the train derailed.

UTA recently became the third state in the country to receive certification from the Federal Transit Administration for the state safety oversight program.

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