Development of Crash Energy Management Specification for Passenger Rail Equipment

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - safety/accidents, organisation - management, mode - rail, mode - subway/metro


Specifications, Railway carriages, Railroad safety, Railroad commuter service, Railroad cab cars, Passenger cars, Metrolink (Los Angeles Metropolitan Area), Crashworthiness, Crash energy management, Commuter rail


At the time of the Glendale, California, commuter train incident on January 26, 2005, in which 11 occupants were fatally injured, Metrolink (Southern California Regional Rail Authority) was preparing to purchase new equipment. As part of its response to the incident, Metrolink decided to apply results of FRA’s research into passenger train crashworthiness in this procurement. Research focuses on the activities of the federal government and rail industry conducted in response to Metrolink’s decision. In coordination with APTA and seeking support in developing a specification for crash energy management (CEM) features, Metrolink approached FRA and FTA. FRA, FTA, and APTA decided to form an ad hoc CEM Working Group. A broad-level work plan was then developed. The working group would include participants from the rail industry and government agencies. The plan included a technology transfer symposium to initiate the effort and four meetings. Following this plan, a detailed technical specification was developed in slightly more than 4 months. The research used to develop the specification and an overview of the specification are summarized. Current practice requires that passenger rail equipment be able to support large loads without permanent deformation but does not consider how cars behave when overloaded. CEM prescribes that car structures crush in a controlled manner and absorb energy. CEM can significantly improve crashworthiness: a cab car-led train with CEM features is more crashworthy than a conventional locomotive-led train. This specification is a guide to CEM technology.