I am a huge transportation geek, as some here know. From what I am hearing from the media (hopefully accurate), the engineer was not on drugs or alcohol, and had his cell phone off, as required by Amtrak. My best guess: He fell asleep. Of course the final report may take months.
Two person cabs may be the result of this. But the railroad unions are strong and may hinder that.
We also learned today the engineer tried to brake, but it was too late. Sounds like he was asleep at the wheel to me. But nothing has been verified, and won’t be official for awhile.
Train travel of course is big in the N.E. corridor, not so much in the rest of the country. I think this could and should be the next big investment in transportation, despite the accident of two days ago. Congress doesn’t think so, but I do. High speed rail, done correctly, can be the future. (High speed rail in CA is being done incorrectly, and that is not the future).
As for the seatbelt debate. No, trains don’t need seatbelts because the trains are not built for them. Many more injuries would occur in a train derailment with seatbelts according to experts. Plus seatbelts in airplanes are based on many other factors, including keeping people in place during turbulence, and the breakaway seating configuration, which does not exist on trains.
One more item here, the automatic train speed reduction. Not available in all areas, including this area in Philly near the Frankford neighborhood.