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safety environmental compliance

Chimes are for Safety

Metra customers on eight lines may have heard an occasional doorbell chime sounding in their cars during their commute. We’d like to explain what they are for.

In response to two fatal passenger train accidents in which speeding was a factor – Amtrak in Philadelphia in May 2015 and Metro North in New York in December 2013 – the Federal Railroad Administration issued a safety advisory to help railroads avoid a recurrence. That advisory encouraged railroads to take additional operational actions to prevent overspeed events, including “requiring additional crew communications regarding applicable passenger train speed limits and restrictions.”

At Metra, safety is our highest priority, and we certainly take the FRA’s safety recommendations very seriously. Therefore, we added a new practice regarding crew communications in which the chimes play a key role. Here’s how it works:

  • There are 17 locations on eight of our 11 lines where trains must reduce their speed by 20 mph or more, all of them curves. (There are no such locations on the Rock Island Line, the UP Northwest Line and the Heritage Corridor Line.)
  • We have programmed our GPS system to sound chimes as our trains are approaching those locations.
  • The purpose of the chimes is to alert the train crew to remind the engineer that the train is approaching one of locations and be prepared to take action if the train should fail to slow down for any reason.
  • Engineers already are required to know all speed limits on the line; this new practice adds another layer of safety by involving the train crew to remind the engineer.

The chimes were designed to be as unobtrusive as possible, but they must be loud enough for the crew to hear and must sound in every car, since members of the crew move from car to car during travel.

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