Amtrak to put inward-facing cameras in trains after Philly crash

Reuters/Eduardo Munoz
Amtrak says it’s on course to begin outfitting 70 locomotive cabs with inward-facing cameras while investigators continue to examine the deadly derailment that claimed eight lives two weeks ago in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The company said in a statement on Tuesday this week that the nearly six-dozen ACS-64 trains operating across the Northeast Corridor will be fitted with cameras by the end of the year, and that all new locomotives will now be equipped with surveillance features before going into service.

“Inward-facing video cameras will help improve safety and serve as a valuable investigative tool,” Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman said in a statement. “We have tested these cameras and will begin installation as an additional measure to enhance safety.”

Tuesday’s announcement comes two weeks to the day after the seven-car Northeast Regional No. 188 derailed in Philadelphia en route to New York. Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the train to accelerate to upwards of 106 miles-per-hour as it approached a curve in the tracks before derailing, killing eight.

READ MORE: Video shows Amtrak train speeding before derailment; death toll stands at 8

The Federal Railroad Administration ordered Amtrak to implement new safety measures in the wake of the derailment, but didn’t offer any suggestions with regards to surveillance cameras. The National Transportation Safety Board has been recommending that the FRA mandate the use of those devices for years, however, and said in 2010 that cabs should be fitted with cameras to discourage employees from misbehaving on the job after an investigation into two separate crashes put train workers at fault.

“The performance of operators of both trains was just egregious,” NTSB member Robert Sumwalt told USA Today in 2010. “Something does need to be done across the nation to try to discourage this type of behavior.”

On Tuesday, Amtrak’s Boardman told reporters in a conference call that Amtrak has always favored the installation of surveillance cameras.


"We've been supporting it all the way along," Boardman said, according to the Associated Press. "It's just a matter of working out some of those details ... there may be some adjustments we have to make later down the road, but I think it's time to do it and I'm doing it."

Metrolink, a transit service in place in the greater Los Angeles region, became the first railroad in the United States to install surveillance cameras in the cabs back in 2007, but the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen filed a lawsuit to block the cameras, citing privacy concerns.

US Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) told AP this week that he hailed Amtrak’s decision but wants to make sure the company goes about installing cameras and implementing procedures in the best possible way.

"Inward-facing cameras, with the right privacy protections for employees, are a critical way to make our railroads safer," Blumenthal said. "Cameras improve accident investigations, deter unsafe behavior, and detect compliance with safety laws, which is why I have urged their installation as soon as possible."

According to Amtrak, the first 70 locomotives to be outfitted with cameras will be from the fleet of ACS-64 trains that serve the Northeast Corridor, including stops in Washington, New York and Boston.