Amtrak trains resume as search for derailment cause continues

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Jim Dolan has more from Penn Station. (WABC)

Amtrak trains began rolling between New York and Philadelphia early Monday, the first time in almost a week following a deadly crash in Philadelphia, and officials vowed to have safer trains and tracks while investigators worked to determine the cause of the derailment.

Amtrak resumed service along the corridor with a 5:30 a.m. southbound train leaving New York City. The first northbound train, scheduled to leave Philadelphia at 5:53 a.m., was delayed and pulled out of 30th Street Station at 6:07 a.m.

Meanwhile, the FBI has completed its examination of the windshield of the Amtrak locomotive and found no evidence of damage that could have been caused by a firearm, the National Transportation Safety Board said. The NTSB has not ruled out the possibility that another object may have struck the windshield, officials said.

About three dozen passengers boarded the first New York City-bound train in Philadelphia, and Mayor Michael Nutter was on hand to see the passengers and train off. All Acela Express, Northeast Regional and other services also resumed.

Amtrak spokesman Craig Schultz said it was important to restore service, calling the Northeast Corridor "an economic engine here on the East Coast."

"There are a lot of stakeholders that have a say and a stake in the Northeast Corridor, so it's very important for our passengers, for Amtrak and, I think, all of us," Schultz said.

The train was equipped with a system of automatic train controls that will prevent it from speeding through the dangerous section of track where Amtrak 188 derailed.

"What that will basically do is provide an assurance that the train will come to a stop if there's a violation of speed in that area," said Schultz.

Amtrak says it will comply with a federal order to implement that automatic train control system on northbound track. It is already in place southbound. The system can automatically slow a speeding train.

Service was halted after Tuesday night's Amtrak train 188 derailment that killed eight people.

CLICK HERE for more on the victims.

"The safety of our passengers and crew remains our number one priority. Our infrastructure repairs have been made with the utmost care and emphasis on infrastructure integrity including complete compliance with Federal Railroad Administration directives," said Amtrak President & CEO Joe Boardman.

"Amtrak staff and crew have been working around the clock to repair the infrastructure necessary to restore service for all the passengers who travel along the Northeast Corridor."

It was on Philadelphia's northbound rails where a speeding train reached 106 mph, flew off the tracks and crashed last Tuesday night.

The new system notifies the engineer when a train is above the speed limit and automatically applies the brakes if the engineer doesn't respond.

The agency also ordered Amtrak to analyze curves on the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington and install appropriate technology where approach speed is significantly higher than curve speed.

Amtrak has said it plans to install a next-generation system for the entire corridor by year's end.

Federal investigators say they're months away from determining the probable cause of a deadly Amtrak train derailment last week in Philadelphia. The National Transportation Safety Board says any other reports on the crash are "pure speculation."

Investigators have said the train was traveling over 100 mph just before it entered a curve where the speed limit is 50 mph.

National Transportation Safety Board board member Robert Sumwalt said during an interview on ABC's "This Week," Sumwalt said that after interviewing dispatchers and reviewing communication from the derailed Amtrak train engineer to the dispatch center, there was no communication to suggest that a projectile had hit the ill-fated train.

He said the information about a projectile came from an assistant conductor, who said she heard Amtrak engineer and the engineer from a nearby Southeast Pennsylvania Transportation Authority regional train talking just before the derailment.

Sumwalt said she recalled hearing the regional train driver say his train had been hit by an object and then Brandon Bostian, the Amtrak engineer, say his train had been struck, too.

The derailment shattered the Amtrak train's windshield. The NTSB said there also was another Amtrak train - this one headed south - that had a window shattered in the same area around the same time.

Sumwalt declined to speculate about the exact significance of a projectile, but the idea raised the possibility that the engineer might have been distracted, panicked or even wounded in the moments before the train left the rails at more than twice the speed limit along a sharp bend.

Bostian told investigators that he does not recall anything after ringing the train's bell as he passed by the North Philadelphia station a couple of minutes before Tuesday night's crash.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority does not yet know what caused the damage to its train that night, said Jerri Williams, a spokeswoman for the agency.

SEPTA trains traveling through the area - including one of the poorest and most violent parts of Philadelphia - have had projectiles thrown at them in the past, whether by vandals or teenagers, she said. It was unusual that the SEPTA train was forced to stop on Tuesday night.

NTSB spokesman Peter Knudson said the board was seeking more information about a third report of damage that night, this one involving a different Amtrak train.

Not long before the derailment, two passengers on a southbound Amtrak told The Philadelphia Inquirer that something shattered a window on their train as it passed through the same area. They said Amtrak police boarded the train at 30th Street station in Philadelphia to document the incident.

The NTSB says it has interviewed the engineer of the Amtrak train and found him "extremely cooperative." But it says engineer Brandon Bostian said he couldn't recall what happened in the crash.

Bostian's lawyer said earlier his client suffered a concussion in the wreck and had no recollection of it. He said Bostian hadn't been using his cellphone and hadn't been drinking or using drugs.

NTSB VIDEO OF CRASH SITE:

The NTSB said that the locomotive's video camera showed that in the last minute or so before the derailment, the Washington-to-New York train accelerated rapidly as it approached a curve where the speed limit is 50 mph.

The engineer applied the emergency brakes seconds before the wreck, but it was too late, investigators have said.



(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

It was the nation's deadliest train accident in nearly seven years. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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