To improve safety, Amtrak will install video cameras to monitor the actions of engineers in locomotive cabs, Amtrak chief executive Joseph Boardman said Tuesday.
The use of such cameras has beenurgedfor five years by the National Transportation Safety Board and opposed by the engineers' union.
The cameras will allow managers and accident investigators to review engineers' actions. Similar cameras, facing outward from the front of the locomotives, already are in place.
The action is the second major safety move by Amtrak after the May 12 derailment of Train 188 at Frankford Junction in Philadelphia killed eight people and injured about 200 passengers.
In an earlier response to the May 12 accident, Amtrak installed a train control system to automatically brake speeding trains on the northbound side of the dangerous curve where Train 188 derailed. The system had been installed years ago on the southbound side of the curve. Train 188 was traveling at 102 miles an hour entering the 50-mile-an-hour curve when it derailed. Amtrak moved to install the train control system on the northbound side of the Frankford curve just days after The Inquirer reported that had the train been heading south from New York to Philadelphia, the control system would have prevented the train wreck.
Meanwhile, the Amtrak CEO said the video cameras would be installed first on 70 new Siemens locomotives that are being put into place now on the Northeast Corridor and the Keystone Corridor between Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and New York City.
Most of the new locomotives, outfitted with the cameras, will be in service by the end of this year, Boardman said.
Eventually, all 300 locomotives in Amtrak's fleet will be outfitted with the cameras.
The cameras will cost about $20,000 each to purchase and install, he said.
Boardman said he made the decision to install the cab cameras without an order from the Federal Railroad Administration.
"I thought this thing through and decided we were just going to go ahead and do it," he said.
The union that represents Amtrak engineers, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, has opposed the cameras as an invasion of privacy.
Union officials did not respond Tuesday to a reporter's requests for comment on Amtrak's decision to install the video cameras. When the NTSB recommended installation of such cameras in 2010, the engineers' union came out against the cameras, saying, "We oppose any measure that needlessly invades their privacy . . . without providing substantive safety improvements."
A Philadelphia personal-injury lawyer for 10 of the injured passengers from Train 188 said Tuesday Amtrak's action came too late.
"The question remains, 'Why wasn't this done much earlier?' " said Robert J. Mongeluzzi, also noting the lack of automatic braking on the northbound curve and the lack of positive train control at the accident site.
"Amtrak shouldn't wait until immediately after a mass disaster to install life-saving equipment," Mongeluzzi said, saying Amtrak's "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."
The deadly May 12 derailment remains under investigationby local and federal authorities.