The Chicago Metra board of directors approved an $11 million contract to replace the camera system on its trains with an upgraded system that includes inward-facing cameras in the locomotives, cab cars, and Highliner cars to record the actions of engineers.

Congress in 2015 ordered the U.S. Department of Transportation to draft rules within two years to require passenger railroads to install inward-facing and outward-facing cameras in all locomotives and other operating compartments such as cab cars and Highliner cars. Those rules are expected from the Federal Railroad Administration by the end of 2017.

“At Metra, safety is our highest priority, and we are pleased to be moving forward with this safety feature before the requirement takes effect,” said Metra Executive Director/CEO Don Orseno. “These cameras will give us another tool to ensure we are operating as safely as possible.”

The new system will include recorders, forward-facing cameras, rear-facing cameras, microphones, storage memory, and crash-hardened memory. It also will include inward-facing cameras in Metra’s fleet of 150 locomotives, 187 cab cars, and the 186 self-propelled Highliner cars used on the Metra Electric Line. The current camera system, which has reached the end of its useful life, does not include inward-facing cameras. The contract was awarded to Railhead Corp. of Alsip, Ill.

According to the federal legislation, the cameras are to be used to: verify that the train crew is following safety laws and operating rules and procedures; assist an investigation of an accident or incident; and document a criminal act or monitor unauthorized people in the locomotive cabs.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has long advocated the use of cameras inside locomotive cabs as an aid in accident investigations and for use in efficiency testing and performance monitoring programs. The cameras also can help railroad management prevent accidents by identifying safety issues before they lead to injuries and loss of life by using them to develop valuable training tools, according to the NTSB.

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