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Metrolink engineers union sues to block surveillance cameras in locomotives

October 20, 2009 | 12:33 pm

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The union representing Metrolink engineers today filed a federal lawsuit to halt the video-surveillance systems recently installed in all of the commuter rail line’s locomotives.

Metrolink installed cameras as a direct response to the deadly 2008 Metrolink crash in Chatsworth that killed 25 people and apparently involved an engineer who earlier had been text messaging on his cellphone.

Metrolink officials said the purpose of the video recording, which cost $1 million to install in all locomotives, was to ensure that engineers adhered to agency bans on cellphones, text messaging and allowing unauthorized passengers in the cab.

However, Paul T. Sorrow, acting president of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, called the cameras an “invasion of privacy" that violated federal law as well as the terms of the union’s contract with Metrolink.

Sorrow said Metrolink could have taken much less intrusive measures, including installing a cellphone-jamming system that blocks all calls and texting.

“Instead of being driven by political expediency, Metrolink needs to consider a realistic solution to the problem that does not rely upon a huge waste of existing limited tax funds," Sorrow said.

A spokeswoman for Metrolink said the agency had not yet been served with the suit.

“Metrolink is disappointed that the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen has taken this action instead of supporting our efforts to advance the safety of passenger train service," said spokeswoman Angela M. Starr. "This program is a vital piece of Metrolink's safety program and was undertaken with the goal of enhancing the safety of our passengers and [the Metrolink agency] and contractors' employees.”

-- Phil Willon at L.A. City Hall

Photo: Rescuers scale a Metrolink car toppled in the 2008 Chatsworth crash. Credit: Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times

Related:

Metrolink news on the Times' L.A. Now blog

Death on the rails in L.A.

Metrolink officials say trains crashed after their engineer drove through red light

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