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Blumenthal: FRA to call for train cameras

Published 4:05 pm, Monday, January 13, 2014
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A national rail safety regulator will act to require cameras facing inward and outward on locomotives and operating cabs after the derailment last month in the Bronx, N.Y., that killed four and injured 67, Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced Sunday.

Blumenthal said he hopes the Federal Railroad Administration will issue an order rather than follow a longer rule-making process, because footage of tracks and engineers operating locomotives is necessary to determine culpability in collisions and derailments.

The additional cameras would have been useful in investigating the Dec. 1 Bronx derailment, in which a train barreled off the tracks at 82 mph on a sharply curved section of track where the speed limit is 30, Blumenthal said.

William Rockefeller, the driver of that train, told others he went into a daze moments before the crash.

"The whole purpose of cameras is to deter misconduct or mistake, as well as detect track defect or debris or other obstruction on the tracks or on bridges," Blumenthal said Sunday. "I'm hoping they do it soon."

After the Bronx crash, he and Schumer called on the FRA to impose a requirement for camera installation.

On Sunday, Blumenthal pointed to National Transportation Safety Board recommendations both before and after a fatal crash five years ago that killed 25 people in California, calling for cameras as a tool to assist in post-accident investigations.

Blumenthal said he believes that such cameras would have provided insight into other recent mishaps, including the derailment of one train and its collision with another on May 17 in Bridgeport, which injured 76 people, and the death of a Maine woman struck and killed by a train on the Saugatuck River railroad bridge on Dec. 26.

"This step is big news, because cameras can help save lives," Blumenthal said. "There shouldn't have been a tragedy or, in fact, a series of tragic incidents, beginning with the Bridgeport collision and derailment and the death of Annette White on the tracks in Westport."

After the Bronx crash, the FRA ordered Metro-North Railroad to reprogram its pre-existing alert system to automatically slow down, but not halt, trains on dangerous curves and at bridges, if engineers are exceeding recommended speeds.

On Sunday, Metro-North spokesman Salvatore Arena said the railroad has no immediate plans to install cameras on trains.

"Metro-North has made many safety improvements since the December derailment and is continuing to work with federal authorities to develop and implement additional safety enhancements," Anders said.