Logo: University of Southern California

Metrolink and USC Viterbi School Partner for Rail Safety

Internationally recognized leaders in systems safety will create a first-of-its-kind advanced safety program
Lisa Heckaman -
March 25, 2011 —

The Metrolink Board of Directors has approved a partnership with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering to create an advanced rail system safety certification program. The program will be an industry first and will pioneer efforts to standardize system safety leadership principles

“The partnership between the USC Viterbi School Continuing Education Program and Metrolink will advance rail transportation safety. USC has been a leading provider of aviation safety education for almost 60 years,” said USC Viterbi Dean Yannis C. Yortsos. ”We are thrilled that Metrolink has recognized that the same degree of excellence will be applied in our partnership for rail safety.”

Najmedin Meshkati, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and of Industrial and Systems Engineering said, "I am very pleased to see that Metrolink's senior management, under the visionary leadership of John Fenton has come to the realization that the business as usual and piecemeal approach is not working anymore and want to improve their safety culture."  Metrolink had approached USC, Meshtaki said, adding, "I strongly believe that another reason that they are so impressed by USC is that one of our outstanding students, Ms. Leslie Koehn, who did a directed research with me on the positive train control at Metrolink in 2009." 

Professor Najmedin Meshkati: improving the safety culture
He said that Koehn did an excellent technical job and established strong rapport at Metrolink.

The Rail System Safety Certification Program is being developed by the USC Viterbi School of Engineering,Office of Master’s and Professional Programs (MAPP) in collaboration with Metrolink. The program will include such areas as Human Factors, safety management systems, risk Identification and a number of topics relevant to establishing an improved safety culture.   

“Today’s decision marks an important day for Metrolink, our board and for the railroading industry,” said Metrolink Board Chairman Richard Katz. “This partnership and its outcome will raise the bar on system safety training as Metrolink continues to set the standard for rail safety.”

USC's involvement in system safety dates to 1952 when it started an aviation safety program for the U.S. Air Force. The USC Aviation Safety and Security Program continues today and a substanial portion of senior personnel the world's aviation safety community have taken courses either at USC or overseas when the instructors travel to give classes in other countries.

Thomas Anthony, director of the aviation program at Viterbi, said the new partnership is an opportunity to share solutions. "This is an opportunity to expand the safety lessons learned from aviation into a different mode of transportation."

“The importance of this program cannot be understated,” said Metrolink CEO John Fenton. “This training, initially designed for Metrolink managers and supervisors, is an integral part of the development of a total safety culture where every employee understands what drives safety performance, and how to lead people in the consistent application of standard principles to achieve world-class safety. This is an investment in safety and Metrolink people.”

Currently, each railroad company has its own individual safety program that focuses on rules and procedures. There is no consistent system safety certification program in the industry. According to Metrolink, technological advances over the next few years - as in the federal mandate for positive train control – will create even higher levels of human technology interface, which points to the need for a standardized system safety curriculum. 

For more information, please visit Metrolink's website.