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Rail News: Safety

Schumer: Nation needs to increase rail security funding, make Amtrak more secure


Earlier this week, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) sent letters to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Senate appropriators urging a push to increase rail security and create an Amtrak “no ride” list in light of evidence showing Al Qaeda leaders were in the early planning stages of a potential terrorist attack on U.S. rail systems.

Schumer plans to seek for more rail security funding to increase track inspections at commuter and passenger railroads, and increase monitoring and support for local law enforcement security personnel at local train stations. Last month, rail and port security grant funding was cut by $50 million under a federal budget compromise, but “new circumstances” require reconsideration and greater investment in rail safety, Schumer said in a prepared statement. The government should boost funding for the Transit Security Grant Program, which provides rail operators monies to protect track against explosive devices in tunnels and train rail personnel, he said.

Schumer also believes the U.S. Department of Homeland Security should expand its successful “Secure Flight” program to Amtrak. Secure Flight requires airlines to collect a passenger’s full name, date of birth and gender to ensure individuals on a “no fly” list don’t board an aircraft and identify individuals on a selectee list for enhanced screening. The same program could be applied at Amtrak to require passengers to purchase tickets ahead of time and reserve a seat, said Schumer.

“We must remain vigilant in protecting ourselves from future terror attacks and when intelligence emerges that provides insight into potential vulnerabilities, we must act with speed,” he said. “Circumstances demand we make adjustments by increasing funding to enhance rail safety and monitoring on commuter rail transit, and screening who gets on Amtrak passenger trains, so that we can provide a greater level of security to the public.”