Rail system vulnerable to terrorist attacks, say security consultants

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St. Louis, MO– Two U.S. railroad industry consultants are warning that the prospect of future domestic terrorist attacks directed at both passenger and freight railroads is real and significant, due to security vulnerabilities, coupled with funding shortfalls for infrastructure enhancements, which combine to make the rail industry a potential target of transnational terrorist groups.

Kim E. Petersen and John P. Hart, both executives with US-based RailSecure LLC, spoke before the Rail Industry Safety Conference recently, which was jointly hosted by the Association of American Railroads and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

Petersen and Hart said there have been over 181 attacks on trains and related rail targets worldwide between 1998 and 2003, in such countries as Colombia, India, Spain, Pakistan, United Kingdom, United States, and Venezuela.

The most recent major attack was directed against commuter trains in Spain on March 11, 2004 by persons with ties to al-Qa’ida. In this most recent incident, more than 190 persons were killed by 10 bombs placed on four separate trains.

Petersen recommended mitigating some of the known risks, suggesting that railroad operators repair or replace dilapidated fencing around rail facilities; install security lighting around facilities and critical infrastructure; replace garbage cans at passenger rails stations with blast-resistant, transparent trash containers to prevent their being used for concealing IEDs (improvised explosive devices); install closed-circuit television systems to monitor facilities, tunnels, and bridges; install signage to increase awareness about unattended packages, evacuation procedures, and restricted areas; train railroad staff to identify suspicious behavior, as well as packages or luggage, and improve emergency response actions; and, educate passengers on the need for their vigilance in spotting suspicious persons or items that could represent a threat to public safety.

“In an industry that prides itself on its passenger and employee safety record, significant work is now underway to address emerging threats from terrorism and crime,” said Hart, who suggested governments must do a better job of allocating counterterrorism resources to the rail industry.

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