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January 2008

Rail News: Passenger Rail

The price of protection: Transit-rail security study outlines options, costs


Last month, Congress approved omnibus legislation that included $400 million for transit and rail security in FY2008 — a $125 million increase compared with FY2007. Maybe transit agencies can refer to a recent study for ideas on how to spend it wisely.

Non-profit research organization RAND Corp. has released the “Securing America’s Passenger-Rail Systems” study, which outlines ways rail security officials can develop cost-effective plans to protect their passenger-rail systems from terrorist attacks.

RAND researchers identified 17 security improvement options, such as canine teams, vehicle surveillance systems and blast-resistant containers, and assessed each option’s effectiveness when deployed in different parts of a rail system.

They then examined 11 potentially vulnerable system locations, such as underground infrastructure, ground-level stations and elevated lines, and subjected them to eight types of attack, including bombings, incendiaries and unconventional weapons.

Using a “generic” heavy-rail system as an intended target, researchers took data from past passenger-rail system terrorist attacks to develop a risk assessment.

Among the lessons learned: Security measures must address the threat of explosive devices, and while attacks from chemical and radiological weapons are unlikely, the potentially serious results from such an attack are cause for concern, RAND said.

Researchers identified four categories of cost-effective security measures for transit agencies:
  • “relatively inexpensive” solutions with “high effectiveness,” such as enhanced security training;
  • additional inexpensive solutions with “reasonable levels of effectiveness,” such as installing retractable bollards at entrances and exits of a central systems operations center and power plant;
  • slightly more expensive solutions with reasonable levels of effectiveness, such as installing fixed barriers at curbsides adjacent to all entrances and passageways leading to ground-level and underground stations; and
  • “relatively expensive” long-term solutions, such as rail vehicle surveillance systems.


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