Denver's Regional Transportation District -- in the wake of a fatal commuter rail crash in Los Angeles -- is installing $3 million in safety technology, The Denver Post reports. The Automatic Train Stop technology, or ATS, is designed to prevent trains from going through a red signal, the cause of the 2008 Los Angeles accident in which 25 people were killed.
On a recent test run, RTD
light-rail transportation manager Bill Bell, in the cab of car No. 271, came up
to a red signal just south of the Alameda rail station. As Bell moved past the
red light, an alarm sounded and onboard devices automatically slowed the train.
Sand dropped to the tracks to aid braking, and the train shuddered to a stop. Along
with light-rail operator Dino Andrew, Bell had successfully tested the ATS.
"We got our activation
just as it should work," said RTD rail operations chief Cal Shankster of
Fifty-five railcars that
RTD is buying for its FasTracks program have factory-installed ATS technology.
About 117 older light-rail cars are getting it as part of a retrofit the agency
hopes to complete by the end of this year, Shankster said.
Equipment mounted near the
wheels at the front of the train picks up electronic code from the track to
"arm and enable" the train-stopping system, said Phillip Eberl, RTD’s
light-rail vehicle maintenance manager. The new safety procedure is considered
a backup to the agency’s automatic block signaling system, the principal means
for keeping trains apart.
When a train operator encounters
a red signal, it typically means another train is occupying the block, or
segment, of track up ahead. Without ATS technology, a light-rail operator can
inadvertently run through a red signal and, in a worst case, collide with
The ATS system allows RTD
operators to move past a red signal and travel under restricted speed when
authorized by the rail control center. This option is needed when maintenance
is being performed on the line, officials said.
RTD averaged about two
incidents a month last year in which light-rail operators traveled past red
signals in violation of the agency’s rules, Shankster said. When it happens, an
operator is taken off duty at the next station and must submit to a drug and
alcohol test, he said.
"Passing a red signal
without permission is considered one of the most serious safety
infractions," Shankster said. "Discipline for a second red-signal
violation within a one-year period is cause for termination of employment and
is strictly enforced."