Using cameras and artificial intelligence developed in partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology, the freight company plans to catch issues quicker. GPB's Sofi Gratas reports.

Cameras prepped beside and underneath the tracks at the station in Jackson.

Cameras prepped beside and underneath the tracks at the station in Jackson.

Credit: Sofi Gratas/GPB News

Last week, Atlanta-based Norfolk Southern settled in a class action lawsuit out of East Palestine, Ohio, agreeing to pay back some of the victims of a devastating train derailment last year. 

The freight company settled for $600 million but did not admit wrongdoing or liability in the incident. 

Now, Jackson is the latest place outside of Ohio to get new technology that’s part of a nationwide safety project out of Norfolk Southern. 

The technology was built in partnership with Georgia Tech’s Research Institute. 

Everytime a train goes through this point on the Jackson rail line between Atlanta and Macon, 38 cameras mounted on an arced station light up, making 1,000 images above, around and below the train. 

About 19 trains come through here every day, said John Fleps, Vice President of Safety at Norfolk Southern. 

“So it's looking for fatigue cracks," Fleps said. "It's looking for conditions that are starting to wear down. If we can find that before it fails, it saves a whole lot of potential risk down the road.”

Artificial intelligence helps sort through the photos and alerts get sent to a hub in Atlanta. If there’s a problem with a train, inspection teams are notified along tracks statewide.

Mabby Amouie, chief data scientist at Norfolk Southern, said the process of recieving and sending alerts takes minutes. 

"Depending on the severity of that emergent conditions, we have a set of protocols that really minimize the response time to be able to overcome that emergent condition and address it," Amouie said.

Fleps said the company started working on this technology with Georgia Tech in 2020, and that it was fast-tracked after the Ohio derailment which federal investigators said was caused by an overheated bearing. 

This is the third digital train inspection portal installed. The first two were installed last October near the site of the crash in East Palestine. 

Norfolk Southern plans to install a total of 17 digital train inspection portals by 2026. The project costs $50 million. 

Separately, the Georgia Department of Transportation recently announced a $8.4 million grant to Norfolk Southern for passing track improvements to address blocked rail crossings in Henry County. Norfolk Southern trains stopped on the tracks have caused safety concerns in Monroe County and in other parts of the country.