The notorious railroad Metrolink Disaster took place on September 12, 2008. It was a nice autumn day, the sky was cloudless, the visibility was fair, and technical conditions of the collided locomotives were good. The wreck of freight and commuter trains took place due to the fault of forty-six-year old Robert M. Sanchez, who had dreamed to be an engine driver since childhood. Robert entered an engineer’s cab for the first time when he was seven. It was the happiest day in his life when Robert could see a diesel engine and blew the horn. Since then, Robert M. Sanchez had dreamed of a day, when he becomes an engineer. In 2006, his dreams came true; he became an engineer to drive commuter trains. Both his neighbors and supervisors told that Robert M. Sanchez was a nice man, who loved his job. Moreover, the administration gave Sanchez an award for rules’ compliance. Nevertheless, Robert M. Sanchez did not stop in front of a red signal light on September 12, 2008, and it caused death of twenty-five persons, including him and 138 people, who were seriously wounded (Keyes and Lawler 117).
This tragedy could take place by several serious shortcomings from the sides of the engineer Robert M. Sanchez, his supervisor, and the dispatcher. The blame of Sanchez was in passing a red signal light. He did not carefully look whether the track was clear, what signals were on the signal lights because he was sending messages from his cell phone. The abovementioned actions were serious violations of the safety rules and the discipline of labor. His supervisor did not pay much attention to Sanchez, as well as to other engineers. For example, once he saw that Sanchez had brought a cell phone and used it at his workplace, but the supervisor ignored it. The dispatcher did not stop the train when Sanchez did not report him about passing a yellow signal light. Therefore, in order to improve the safety on the railroad transportation, supervisors and the administration should improve the educational work with engineers, paying the due attention to shortcomings and non observance of the instructions and safety rules. The technical offices should design new cheap and more efficient devices to guarantee the emergency stop of trains, in case of their passing red signals. Moreover, each aspect of the signal lights should be seen on the special device of the locomotive for displaying them. At the same time, any changes of signal light aspects will signal by a buzzer to the engineer who should respond to it. Otherwise, the train will be stopped automatically. In addition, the technical offices should develop special speed limits, while passing yellow signals.
The major reason of this tragic accident was non observance of requirements of signal light aspects by the engineer, Robert M. Sanchez. Moreover, he also did not watch whether the track was clear. The wreck had emerged in two minutes and sixteen seconds, when at 4:20:07 Sanchez propelled the train. He did not notice the passage of a yellow signal light and did not report about it to his dispatcher. To make things worse, the train moved at the speed of forty-two miles per hour at the maximum eighth position of the throttle, while approaching the red signal. Sanchez increased the speed to fifty-four miles per hour and in a minute and twenty-five seconds he had to apply brakes because of a curve. He slowed the train down to forty-four miles per hour. Hence, Sanchez was passing the red signal light at this huge speed. He did not report his dispatcher about the passed signal. As the result, Sanchez passed over a switch and collided with a local freight train moving from the opposite direction. Sanchez’s speed was forty-one miles per hour at the moment of the collision. At that time, the speed of the freight train was forty-three miles per hour. Therefore, the combined speed of the collision was eighty-four miles per hour. Because of the curve, Sanchez did not notice the train and nor apply the brakes. As for the engineer of the freight train, he noticed the commuter train and applied the brakes, but it was too late because his train could not stop in four seconds at the speed of forty-three miles per hour.
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Robert M. Sanchez was a lonely person. On February 14, 2003, he lost his friend, who committed suicide. In three years, Sanchez became an engineer. Of course, the administration should know this fact of his biography, as well as his imprisonment for 90 days for shoplifting. Both facts of his biography were serious reasons for the more attentive consideration whether Robert M. Sanchez becomes a good engine driver. In addition, he lived in a home with dirty yard, which pointed at carelessness of the master and his indiscipline in thoughts and actions. At the same time, Sanchez was a kind man because he took care of four dogs. Therefore, his supervisors made a mistake in the educational work with him. It was no wonder that Sanchez caused the collision. Moreover, he intended to give driving the train to a teenager that day. It is a rather strange thing when Sanchez had more than a hundred messages from teenagers at his workplace, while driving the train. Moreover, his HIV disease, diabetes, and elevated blood pressure should have worried the administration. Therefore, the administration should cardinally change the way they work with engineers. For instance, they should conduct more meets with engineers’ families on holidays, giving presents and benefits to the best of them; they should organize various tests and educational programs for improving engineers’ knowledge, and so on.
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Robert M. Sanchez had worked for about three years as an engine driver. Of course, it is a very short term to become a good engineer. Actually, he was a young engineer, who was entrusted to drive passenger trains without an assistant. As a matter of fact, young engineers should drive trains with assistants for five years, and only after it, they should pass exams to drive trains without assistants. At the same time, their assistants should have an opportunity to pass engineering exams only in five years, on the condition that they would observe all the rules and safety instructions. Of course, if Sanchez had an assistant, he would not have passed a red signal that day. At the same time, it is not necessary to design a new control panel for an assistant. It is enough to have an emergency shut down engine button and an emergency brake valve. In addition, it will make a dispatcher’s job much easier. One should never have thought how a dispatcher could have felt, listening to engineers, while passing signal lights, especially when over sixty trains move in both directions through lines with eight or more block sections. Moreover, a dispatcher cannot drive a train by a remote control. Of course, it will do a computer, but it is a very expensive project. Moreover, trains move on the ground. Of course, such an instance can happen while flying an aircraft because of the absence of unexpected obstacles.
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The next problem is how to make an engineer’s job easier, providing and improving safe railroad operation. Therefore, it is suggested to change a principle of the signalization. In this purpose, locomotives should be equipped with the so-called locomotive signalization, which can repeat light-signal aspects. Thus, each locomotive will be equipped with receiving coils and decoders to receive signals of various frequencies, depending on the light-signal aspects. Therefore, the certain bulb of the locomotive signal light will be turned on by the certain impulse. The abovementioned signals of various frequencies will be sent on rails by a special device. Therefore, red, yellow, and green signals will have various impulses at 12V. At the same time, an engineer will see the signal in the cabin, irrespective to both the visibility and distances to the signal lights to make decisions on time. Moreover, when lights change on the locomotive signal light, a buzzer should sound. An engine driver should press a special vigilance button because otherwise, the train will be stopped by the emergence braking automatically. Moreover, while passing a yellow signal, the speed of a train should be less than thirty-seven miles per hour for passenger and twenty-five miles per hour for freight trains. In addition, at the distance of 350 yards from the red signal-light, the speed of a train should be less than thirteen miles per hour. In this case, a special bulb in the cab will be turning on in each fifteen seconds, requiring an engineer to press a vigilance button on the panel. Otherwise, the train will be stopped automatically by the emergence braking in seven seconds. If a train passes a red signal at the speed of over thirteen miles per hour, the automatic emergency brake will be activated immediately. Speed, braking, signal-light aspects, pressing a vigilance button, distance, time, and all talking in the cab should be recorded by the special device. This information will be passed to a special department for decoding. Any violations of rules and instructions should be revealed and punished, especially such as passing of a red signal, exceeding speed limits, and automatic activation of the emergence brakes.
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The next aspect of the problem is crossings with highways and ground roads. Each section of crossing should be guarded by protecting signal-lights from each direction. In addition, all crossings should be equipped with automatic barriers from each direction of the ground road. If the barrier is not activated, protecting signal-lights will be red. In this case, the locomotive signal light will indicate the moving on a red signal, and an engineer should apply brakes to stop the train before the red signal-light. Of course, it demands a lot of money, but lives of hundreds of Americans cost much more.
The given project is much cheaper than to equip additional driver’s desks, remote controls, or the installation of expensive cameras in cabs. Moreover, it is difficult to imagine how many people should watch actions of hundreds of engineers. Of course, it will be impossible. In addition, each engineer will give the coded information about his job to the special department and all his shortcomings will be revealed. Moreover, all the speaking in the cabin will be recorded as well. Therefore, any speaking over cell phones will be successfully revealed followed by the certain conclusions. At the same time, nobody can fabricate records because of the modern magnet technologies, which are very reliable and any external interference will be also recorded. As for Robert M. Sanchez, he should have had an assistant. Unfortunately, his supervisor and the administration did not pay a due attention to him, but if his locomotive had had the abovementioned device, the Metrolink Disaster would have never taken place.
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