Monday, May 24, 2010

Metrolink Engineer Tampering with Locomotive Surveillance Cameras

An engineer has been barred from operating Metrolink trains and another is under investigation for allegedly tampering with new locomotive surveillance cameras designed to improve safety on the commuter line after federal investigators found an engineer's actions contributed to the deadly 2008 Chatsworth crash.
Metrolink officials accused one engineer of making three attempts to block the cameras' view. That engineer, who works for an operating contractor, Connex Railroad LLC, has been barred from running any train on Metrolink-controlled tracks, agency spokeswoman Angela Starr said.
Another engineer allegedly clipped a paper to a visor to block the camera in March. He is still operating Metrolink trains pending the outcome of an investigation, Starr said.
Metrolink is the first commuter train agency in the nation to install cameras in the cab to monitor engineers. The action followed a federal investigation that found the engineer of a Metrolink train was sending and receiving text messages on his cell phone before running a red signal light and slamming into a freight train. The engineer, Robert Sanchez, and 24 others were killed in the September 2008 crash in Chatsworth.
A union representing the engineers has filed a federal lawsuit challenging use of the cameras. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen alleges that sun visors were moved to accomodate the cameras, making it difficult for engineers to see clearly when there's a sun glare.
Metrolink contends the cameras' installations have not created a problem because sunglasses are isued to engineers and the visors are still available, Starr said.
The engineer banned from the railroad deliberately was seen blocking the camera's view by turning the device and later putting a visor in front of the lens, she said.
A spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration, which investigates safety issues, said the agency is aware of the disciplinary cases but had not received any complaint about possible sun glare hazards related to the cameras.
Metrolink's contract with Connex expires in late June, and Amtrak will begin providing train crews for the commuter line.Read more: