The North County Transit District suspended all Sprinter rail service March 9th until further notice due to discovered safety issues involving the rail line’s braking systems. NCTD reported that light rail vehicles are equipped with a multi-redundant braking system; therefore at no time were rail patrons at risk. However, the discovery of the faulty system has prompted NCTD to rightly shut down the rail line until the brakes are replaced and approved by regulators.
NCTD discovered during brake testing premature wear on one of three braking systems that total eight of the 24 brakes on each Sprinter car. Specifically, rotors inside the central brakes were exhibiting unexpected accelerated wear patterns. During the brake tests, NCTD found that the rail line’s brake system also meets all manufacturer and California Public Utilities Commission brake performance standards.
As NCTD works to replace the braking system, bus service will be offered as a replacement until further notice. Stations will also be staffed with ambassadors and NCTD volunteers to help affected patrons. While it is unfortunate that NCTD’s light rail system ran into an unforeseen safety glitch, this event clearly shows why mandatory safety testing and frequent in-house inspections are imperative for transit fleets. Checking for faults will allow operators to fix problems before they can become catastrophic. Suspending the rail line’s operations and offering alternative bus service in the name of safety is a small sacrifice we must accept to protect life. NCTD will be working with suppliers and regulators to expedite the replacement parts in order to get the trains up and running. Stay tuned for more information.