By Charlotte Huffman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — What caused last week’s deadly Amtrak derailment is a question that remains unanswered.

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The National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation is still underway.

The NTSB’s full report is expected to explain why engineer, Brandon Bostian was traveling at speeds twice the speed limit.

The full report could take as long as 12 months to complete.

Meanwhile, an advocacy group of freight and passenger rail workers, Railroad Workers United said Wednesday that Bostian’s shift on May 12 had been “grueling” and his rest break was shortened by equipment-related delays on his earlier train to Washington.

The train arrived 26 minutes late, leaving Bostian about an hour to rest and eat before his trip back to New York on the train that eventually derailed.

For decades, engineers had 90 minute breaks between trips but recently, Amtrak cut those break times to 60 minutes.

The group’s co-chair says quick turnarounds are a safety concern especially for engineers traveling the Northeast Corridor.

“You are talking about very high speed track, you’re talking about a lot of decision making going on at the time and there are human needs involved. You need to be able to have some time to take a break before you go back to a very intense job,” said John Paul Wright, co-chair of Railroad Workers United.

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The schedule change came six weeks before the crash and was condemned by rail unions as “a disaster in the making.” But critics say Congress didn’t listen.

“They’re trying to squeeze everything they can to make this profitable for Amtrak. The unions have been saying this is a very bad idea, look what happened it’s a disaster in the making, you know,” said Wright.

Federal regulations limit an engineer to a 12-hour work day but an internal audit of Amtrak obtained by the I-Team shows employees are reporting exceeding that 12 hour limit.

According to Amtrak’s report, in 2013 employees reported 116,892 instances of working 16 hours or more.

83 percent of those reports came from transportation employees which includes train engineers and conductors.

In a statement, Amtrak responded to the reduced break times saying 60 minutes still meets federal safety regulations.

The company said the change is part of an overall new schedule that is superior to the old one because it addresses quality-of-life issues for the company’s crew.

 

 

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