The common operation of “push-pull” trains by railroads again came under investigation as it was revealed that the control cab at the front of the Metro-North train that crashed on December 1 did not have an “alerter” system in use. Such a system monitors the engineer’s actions and, if he or she does nothing for a set period of time, sounds an alarm that the engineer must acknowledge to avoid the brakes going on. However, although the locomotive for the train may have such a system, it is not necessarily available if the locomotive is pushing the train and the engineer is operating from a cab at the front of a passenger car, according to reporting in The New York Times (Matt Flegenheimer, Ford Fessenden, and Henry Fountain; Dec. 4–5).
Metro-North said that equipment to be purchased in the future will have alerters included. Since “highway hypnosis” has been discussed as a possible cause of the crash, the absence of an alerter may have been a contributing factor. The use of push-pull trains has become increasingly popular in recent years, as the trains do not have to be turned at the end of each run. New Jersey Transit is an especially heavy user of push-pull trains; NJT has opted not to replace aging “multiple-unit” electric trains, which are not push-pull trains. Instead in many cases NJT chooses to run push-pull trains with their own separate locomotives. It is not known at this point whether NJT push-pull trains are equipped with alerters.
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