Caltrain will be running empty trains this month during a testing process that will also increase the nighttime noise levels for Menlo Park residents living near the tracks.
Transit America Services Inc., Caltrain's new operator, will be “qualifying” engineers to operate the trains between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., said Jayme Ackemann, Government Affairs Officer for SamTrans and Caltrain.
These qualifying tests will increase the amount of horn noise and gate down time. They will continue throughout the rest of the month.
Caltrain awarded TASI the contract to operate the system in 2011, releasing Amtrack from the responsibility of doing so. TASI's engineers are Federal Railroad Administration-certified. However, the train line in the Bay Area is physically unique and requires additional experience acquisition, Ackemann said.
“With more than 40 at-grade crossings between San Francisco and San Jose, it’s critical that our engineers are familiar with operating conditions before they begin running passenger service,” Ackemann said.
To practice, the engineers will be governing passengerless trains during the day on the weekends, Caltrain officials announced in a statement Friday. These trains will not stop to pick up riders.
"Passengers at stations should be aware that trains may arrive off schedule," Ackemann added.
Caltrain expects that tests will conclude on May 24. TASI operators are expected to begin in-service operations on May 26.
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