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Metrolink union opposes video cameras inside locomotives

March 4, 2009 |  9:11 am

A top union official representing Metrolink engineers told federal authorities this morning that the union opposes a key reform proposed by the commuter agency in the wake of the Chatsworth rail disaster: installing video cameras inside locomotives.

The comments came during the second day of sworn testimony in a National Transportation Safety Board hearing investigating the Sept. 12 catastrophe that killed 25 people and injured 13 others.

“We certainly don’t support the requirement or the installation of any recording device” inside train cabs because of privacy concerns, said William Walpert, national secretary treasurer of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

His comments put the union in direct opposition to Metrolink, which has said it is moving forward with plans to install video cameras in train cabs later this year to help prevent activity such as cellphone use by engineers or allowing unauthorized people to ride in the cabs.

Metrolink Assistant Executive Officer Gray Crary said during the hearing that “a legitimate use of the cameras is to act as a deterrent.”

“We don’t believe that such equipment would act as a deterrent,” Walpert responded, adding that cameras are “nothing more than intruding on personal rights.”

At Tuesday’s hearing, The NTSB released details of text messages showing that the Metrolink engineer blamed for running a red light in the Chatsworth crash allowed rail fans to ride in his cab and, in at least one instance, operate the train.

The engineer, who was killed in the accident, also sent and received dozens of text messages while on duty the day he collided with an oncoming Union Pacific freight train, the NTSB said.

We’ll keep you updated on the hearing, which will focus later today on safety systems that NTSB officials have said could have prevented the Chatsworth catastrophe.

-- Robert J. Lopez