The consequences of railroad workers, pedestrians or cars being struck by a moving train are usually catastrophic. Now, Union Pacific and Metra claims that a new safety system will significantly advance safety for pedestrians and motorists. Our Chicago train injury lawyers are encouraged that new safety measures will be introduced, but are disappointed that, in implementing these new safety measures, the railroads have abandoned some of the safety measures previously in place on this line.
The new measures are being touted by railroad officials as the most comprehensive safety system in the nation. They include completed upgrades at Elmhurst, Villa Park, Winfield, Geneva, Glen Ellyn, College Avenue, Maywood and Melrose Park, and additional work (not yet completed) at Bellwood, Berkeley, Wheaton and Lombard. The additional work is scheduled to be completed between now and 2013. No policies will be changed at these stations until work is complete.
The new measures include fences, gates and signs. Many of the new warnings being implemented – both visual and audible – are designed to alert pedestrians that more than one train will be passing through the station at once. The new safety features include signs and audio warnings, new fencing and new or altered pedestrian paths, and other safety measures designed to ensure compliance with safety gates and prevent pedestrians from crossing tracks at unapproved locations.
In particular, these stations now feature what Union Pacific calls the “Another Train Warning System.” In this system, when a second train approaches a particular station, the word “Danger” begins to flash in red, while the words “Another train coming” light up in white. At the same time, an audio warning will turn on: a voice repeating “Danger, another train coming.”
These changes are part of an overhaul of the rail line, estimated at $132 million, which includes improvements to tracks, crossings, and other equipment. The goal of the overall project is to increase the flow of both passenger and freight trains along the rail line – which it will undoubtedly accomplish — and to reduce the risk of someone getting struck by a train and killed or seriously injured.
In connection with these new warnings and other safety enhancements, several longstanding safety measures have now been rolled back or eliminated. For example, until this most recent set of changes, freight trains were held back during rush hour, and could not roll through suburban passenger stations on this line. Freight trains were also prohibited from rolling through these stations when passenger trains were loading or unloading passengers. These restrictions have now been lifted – freight trains may now move through these passenger stations under both these circumstances.
Additionally, before now other passenger trains, like freight trains, were prohibited from entering stations while passengers were boarding or exiting another train. This restriction has likewise been lifted.
Railroad officials, from both Metra and Union Pacific, have stated that they are certain the new safety measures are adequate to protect pedestrians, even without the previous safety restrictions. Our experienced railroad injury lawyers, however, are not so sure.
Experts agree that the risk of accidents increases when more than one train is coming into a station at the same time. This is true of both pedestrian and automotive accidents. So, while we are pleased with the additional safety features, our train injury attorneys are disappointed that the railroad has chosen to abandon a policy that virtually guaranteed the elimination of second-train accidents — and replaced it with some additional simple warnings.
Nor are we the only ones with remaining concerns. Dr. Lanny Wilson of the DuPage Railroad Safety Council noted that, as pleased as his organization is with the safety upgrades, the increased proximity of freight trains to passengers and pedestrians may prove a serious danger. His concern is that by increasing the train traffic, it will lead to an increase in pedestrian-train accidents. “We’re all about trying to approach zero deaths and injuries and crashes. We have a long way to go. I hope this takes us in that direction,” Wilson said in an interview for the Chicago Tribune story.
We devoutly hope that the new policies on Metra’s Union Pacific West Line will not lead to an increase in accidents and fatalities. Regardless of the results of these changes, however, those who are injured in train accidents should contact an experienced attorney to determine whether the negligence of the railroad, its employees, or others could be responsible for their injuries.
For a Free Consultation with a top Chicago train accident attorney at Passen & Powell, call us today at (312) 527-4500.