Railroad Accident Report - Uncontrolled Movement, Collision, and Passenger Fatality on the Angels Flight Railway

Los Angeles, California
February 1, 2001

NTSB Number: RAR-03-03
NTIS Number: PB2003-916303
Adopted August 5, 2003
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Executive Summary

About 12:17 p.m. on February 1, 2001, the two cars of the Angels Flight funicular railway (Angels Flight) collided in downtown Los Angeles, California. The accident resulted in 7 injuries and 1 fatality among the 20 passengers aboard the two cars and injuries to a pedestrian. The Angels Flight Operating Company estimated monetary damage to the cars at $370,000 with an additional $1.2 million to replace the funicular haul system.

Probable Cause

The National Transportation Safety Board determines that the probable cause of this accident was the Yantrak Company's (Lift Engineering's) improper design and construction of the Angels Flight funicular drive and the failure of the City of Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, its contractors (Pueblo Contracting Services, Yantrak, and Harris and Associates), and the California Public Utilities Commission to ensure that the railway system conformed to initial safety design specifications and known funicular safety standards.

The major safety issues identified in this investigation are:

  • The adequacy of the safety oversight of the Angels Flight reconstruction project;
  • The adequacy of the design of the reconstructed Angels Flight system;
  • The adequacy and appropriateness of the braking systems designed for Angels Flight; and
  • The adequacy of Angels Flight Operating Company's maintenance and operating procedures.

As a result of the investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board makes safety recommendations to the California Public Utilities Commission, the City of Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency, and the American National Standards Institute.

Recommendations

As a result of its investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board makes the following safety recommendations:

To the California Public Utilities Commission:

Adopt comprehensive funicular design, construction, and operation regulations that include provisions for (1) emergency stopping under all foreseeable failure modes, (2) containment of passengers in the event of a collision, and (3) emergency egress and ingress for passengers and emergency responders. (R-03-14)

Before certifying Angels Flight to restart passenger service, independently verify that the drive system meets accepted industry standards and engineering practices and that the funicular includes provisions for (1) emergency stopping under all foreseeable failure modes, including track brakes or some other independent backup system on the cars to prevent a runaway car if a failure occurs in the cable or its associated braking systems; (2) containment of passengers in the event of a collision; and (3) emergency egress and ingress for passengers and emergency responders. (R-03-15)

To the City of Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency:

Before recommencing passenger service on the Angels Flight funicular railway: Conduct a comprehensive review of the design and specifications for the Angels Flight drive system, then make the design or component changes necessary to ensure that the drive system meets accepted industry standards and engineering practices. (R-03-16)

Require that the current Angels Flight emergency braking system (acting on the cable drums) be redesigned to allow it to be tested independent of other braking systems. (R-03-17)

Require that the organization(s) responsible for operating and maintaining the Angels Flight funicular develop and follow detailed operating, inspection, and maintenance procedures to ensure the operational integrity of the system and safety of passengers. (R-03-18)

Direct that the Angels Flight funicular be redesigned in accordance with all applicable funicular safety standards and include provisions for (1) emergency stopping under all foreseeable failure modes, including track brakes or some other independent backup system on the cars to prevent a runaway car if a failure occurs in the cable or its associated braking systems; (2) containment of passengers in the event of a collision; and (3) emergency egress and ingress for passengers and emergency responders. (R-03-19)

To the American National Standards Institute:

Establish an accelerated schedule for adoption of the draft American National Standards Institute Standard B77.2 for funicular safety requirements. (R-03-20)