Amtrak said Tuesday it will install video cameras inside locomotive cabs to record the actions of train engineers, a move that follows a deadly derailment earlier this month in which investigators are searching for clues to the train engineer's actions before the crash.
The engineer, Brendan Bostian, suffered a head injury in the accident and has told investigators he can't remember what happened. Northeast Regional train 188 accelerated to a speed of 106 miles per hour in the last minute before entering a curve where it derailed. The speed limit for the curve is 50 mph. The crash left eight people dead and about 200 injured.
The train was equipped with a "black box" data recorder and an outward-facing camera focused on the track ahead, but neither of those devices reveals what was happening inside the cab.
The National Transportation Safety Board has been recommending that the Federal Railroad Administration require passenger and freight train cabs to have audio recorders since the late 1990s. They revised that recommendation five years ago to include inward-facing sound and video recorders.
Railroad administration officials say they support use of the cameras. In the past year, the agency has told the NTSB that it intends to propose regulations requiring the cameras. However, no regulations have been proposed and it typically takes federal agencies many months, if not years, to move from proposals to final regulations.
Cameras will first be installed in 70 new Amtrak locomotives that will power all Northeast Regional and long-distance trains between Washington, New York and Boston, as well as Keystone Service between New York, Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Joseph Boardman, the railroad's president and CEO, told reporters in a telephone briefing that about 38 of the locomotives will be equipped with the cameras before the end of the year, and the rest by sometime this spring.
Amtrak is developing a plan for installation of cameras in the rest of its locomotive fleet, including Acela Express locomotives, but no time table has been set for those installations. The railroad has about 300 locomotives nationwide.
Tuesday night, a spokesperon for local attorney Robert J. Mongeluzzi, released a statement regarding Amtrak's plan:
Although we approve of Amtrak's belated decision to install a video camera inside the cab of the locomotive, the question remains, “Why wasn't this done much earlier?” The National Transportation Safety Board recommended the exact same safety feature five years ago and Amtrak did not install it. Amtrak also had automatic train control for southbound trains but not northbound trains, until after the accident. Amtrak has Positive Train Control on a significant portion of its system, but not at the accident site. Amtrak shouldn't wait until immediately after a mass disaster to install life-saving equipment. Their utter failure to implement all three of these safety features well before the Train 188 disaster calls into question Amtrak's leadership, including its role leading up to this tragedy.