Patrick Semansky / AP

Amtrak to install video cameras in locomotives

The NTSB has been requesting cameras in train cabs for five years

Amtrak said Tuesday it will install video cameras in locomotive cabs to record the actions of train engineers — something it has requested for almost 20 years — after a deadly derailment earlier this month, with investigators searching for clues to the engineer's actions just 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 106 miles per hour in the last minute before entering the 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 revealed what was happening in the cab.

The National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that the Federal Railroad Administration require passenger and freight train cabs to have audio recorders since the late 1990s. It 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 safety board 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 timetable has been set for those installations. The railroad has about 300 locomotives nationwide.

The Associated Press

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