Jan. 14--Railroad safety advocates, including Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., claimed a preliminary victory Monday after a federal regulators pledged to require cameras on train cabs, a measure that locomotive engineers across the country have fought.
Metro-North's fatal, 82 mph derailment on Dec. 1 evidently was enough to prod the Federal Railroad Administration into implementing long-recommended rules to monitor train engineers on the job, according to advocates.
At a press conference at Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan, Blumenthal and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said the FRA had just announced it is starting the process to require inward- and outward-facing cameras on locomotives, or the front cars, of all freight and passenger trains.
"There is no reason that these cameras should not have been in place well before now," said Blumenthal, who had joined Schumer last month in calling for Metro-North to install cameras in response to the Dec. 1 wreck.
Blumenthal said cameras might have made the difference in the botched handling of a fatal Metro-North train vs. pedestrian accident in Westport two days after Christmas. The crew thought it had hit something on the rail bridge above the Saugatuck River, and stopped the train to search. In the darkness and fog they found nothing on the tracks or the bridge pilings, and simply left with no notice by them or dispatchers to Westport police.
The body of a Maine woman was later found in the Saugatuck, but investigators didn't know what happened until getting a surprise call days later, from a passenger who read about the mystery body and remembered his train stopping for the emergency search.
Metro-North says it followed all protocols. Critics say the railroad appears blameless in the accident, but emphasize that the victim's family might still be wondering what happened if not for the passenger's call.
"An outward-facing camera might have shown what happened," Blumenthal said at the time.
The National Transportation Safety Board recommended installing inward-facing cameras to monitor crews after a Metrolink commuter train and freight train crashed in California in 2008, killing 25. Authorities blamed the wreck on the Metrolink engineer being distracted while texting.
Metrolink installed inward-facing cameras afterward, saying it wanted to be sure engineers weren't on cell phones or committing other misconduct while driving. Its engineers sued, claiming invasion of privacy, but a California judge dismissed their case in 2011.
Engineers sued when Kansas City Southern Railway put in cameras this year, but they, too, lost their case. Union Pacific, one of the nation's biggest freight railroads, last year begun installing them on 5,000 of its locomotives.
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