May 27, 2015

Trains in Northeast Corridor will be first to be retrofitted

Track workers and officials work at the site of a derailed Amtrak train in PhiladelphiaIn the wake of the Philadelphia derailment of Amtrak 188 that left eight dead and hundreds injured, Amtrak announced that, by the end of 2015, it will install inward-facing video cameras on its fleet of 38 ACS-64 trains operating in the northeast corridor.  The railroad operator also stated that 70 new trains slated to be placed into future service will also contain inward-facing cameras. In a statement, Amtrak stated it is planning to retrofit its entire fleet of 300 locomotives with inward-facing cameras.

Currently, Amtrak trains are fitted with outward facing cameras and monitoring systems which track the actions of the train and engineer.  Amtrak’s inward-facing cameras are supposed to improve safety and provide greater investigative insight after train accidents.  Members of Congress have come out in support of Amtrak’s announcement but some, like Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), are urging inward-facing cameras be made a mandatory safety protocol by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Investigation into train 188 derailment ongoing

Federal authorities are continuing their investigation into why and how Amtrak train was traveling more than 100 miles per hour when it derailed near Frankford Junction, Philadelphia.  Eight passengers were killed and more than 200 were injured.  The train’s engineer at the time, Brandon Bostian, claims to have suffered a head injury and has no recollection of the accident.  There were no inward-facing cameras inside train 188 and what transpired in the moments leading up to the crash remains unclear.

For years, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended that railroad operators outfit trains with audio and video recording devices.  While the Federal Railroad Administration claims to agree with the NTSB’s recommendation to make video recorders a mandatory safety practice, it has not proposed any regulations itself to solidify the practice.  Federal regulations, such as those recommended by Sen. Blumenthal, can unfortunately take months or years to come to fruition.