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Senators call for train cameras to monitor engineer, track

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks during a news

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill. (Oct. 5, 2011) Credit: Getty Images

Video cameras facing into and out of a train's control cab could help prevent accidents like last week's deadly Metro-North Railroad derailment, two federal lawmakers said Sunday.

Metro-North signal crews, meanwhile, have installed protections at the Spuyten Duyvil curve at the Bronx derailment site to warn engineers of the curve's lower speed limit and automatically apply emergency brakes if the train speed exceeds 30 mph, Metropolitan Transit Authority officials said in a statement Sunday.

Those protections will be operating on all trains by Monday morning, the MTA said.

Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) on Sunday called on the Federal Railroad Administration to immediately begin requiring railroads to install video cameras on trains that would monitor track and signal conditions, as well as an engineer's actions, at the time of an accident.

The call comes a week after a Manhattan-bound Metro-North train derailed in the Bronx, killing four passengers and injuring 71 others. Union officials said the engineer, William Rockefeller, 46, of upstate Germantown, "nodded" off inside the cab. The train was moving at 82 mph as it entered a sharp 30 mph curve, investigators said.

Schumer said the accident -- the deadliest on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's network in 22 years -- should be a "wake-up call" and that cameras would be a deterrent against engineer distractions and fatigue.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommended such systems be installed in 2008, after a Metrolink train crash in Los Angeles that killed 25 people. Schumer and Blumenthal said that to date the railroad administration has not taken any action to put the recommendation in place.

Blumenthal said he would like to see a video camera requirement added to an emergency order issued by the railroad administration last week calling on Metro-North to tighten speed restrictions and require two engineers on certain trains.

The derailment was the third since May on tracks used by Metro-North -- the busiest commuter railroad in the country, carrying 83 million passengers each year.

"This system provides a critical deterrent to alert the drivers of those trains that they have to stay awake and alert," Blumenthal said.

Officials from the railroad administration, in a statement yesterday, said, "We support the use of cameras in cabs to further improve safety."

On its website Sunday the Association of Commuter Rail Employees, the union representing Metro-North engineers, said it supports the Federal Railroad Administration's call for enhanced safety measures, including a system that would protect workers who report safety violations.

The statement did not mention cameras among the measures supported by the union.

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