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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

U.S. Homeland Security elevates mass transportation threat level after London bombings


Today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security raised the mass transportation threat level from yellow (elevated) to orange (high) in light of the morning bombings on the London Underground subway system and a city bus that killed dozens and injured hundreds. The threat level advisory applies to subways, regional and intercity rail lines, and bus systems.

Department officials recommend the nation’s major transit systems “increase vigilance” and implement “additional security measures.”

“We have been in direct communication with officials at the state and local level, and with public- and private-sector transportation officials,” said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in a prepared statement. “We do not have any specific intelligence indicating this type of attack is planned in the United States, but we are constantly evaluating both intelligence and our protective measures, and will take whatever actions are necessary.”

Homeland Security officials will work closely with British officials during investigations of the incidents, Chertoff said.

Amtrak and a number of transit agencies already are stepping up security efforts. Amtrak elevated its own security threat level, deployed more officers and K-9 teams, and briefed employees to raise awareness of suspicious activity.

In the nation’s capitol, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority temporarily closed some restrooms at Metrorail stations, and deployed special response and explosive detection canine teams to conduct sweeps of stations, trains and buses.

Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) also has closed restrooms at stations, as well as mobilized more than 40 managers and engineers to increase surveillance. Earlier today, BART police officers inspected trains at various stations for suspicious packages and unattended baggage.

In Atlanta, Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transit Authority deployed all available police officers to inspect the system and encouraged riders to report any suspicious activity.

New Jersey Transit also reminded passengers to report any unattended packages or suspicious activity. In addition, the agency doubled police patrols, tripled K-9 units and enlisted state police to provide helicopter inspections of track, bridges and facilities.

Although Homeland Security hasn’t elevated the security risk for freight railroads, the roads have deployed additional police officers and K-9 teams, and increased awareness along the U.S. freight-rail network, according to the Association of American Railroads (AAR).

“This is a precautionary step that is part of the industry’s security plan,” said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger. “We continue to work closely with all government agencies to ensure that we are receiving and sharing the best possible information about potential threats and prevention measures.”

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/7/2005