Department of Homeland Security Announces New Measures to Expand Security for Rail Passengers

Washington – The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on May 20, 2004 issued Security Directives (SD) requiring protective measures to be implemented by passenger rail operators.

The directives, which will be administered by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), will take effect on May 23 and apply to all passenger rail owners/operators. These include light rail systems, inter-city passenger rail systems such as Amtrak, commuter rail operations such as the Maryland Rail Commuter and Long Island Railroad, as well as subway systems nationwide.

“Millions of Americans travel by rail every day and recent world events highlight the need to ensure they are kept safe from acts of terror,” said Asa Hutchinson, Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security at DHS. “These protective measures, along with others already in place, advance our mission to ensure rail passengers are protected.”

The measures instruct commuter, transit and inter-city passenger rail systems to comply with requirements that range from removing or replacing station trashcans to utilizing canine explosives detection teams. The mandatory measures cover a broad range of security issues and provide flexibility to meet the specific needs of rail operators.

They substantiate existing best practices in the rail industry and will ensure enhanced security across the nation’s passenger rail systems, DHS said. The directives require rail operators to take a number of steps, among them:  

  • Rail owners/operators must designate coordinators to enhance security-related communications with the TSA.
  • Passengers and employees will be asked to report unattended property or suspicious behavior.  
  • At certain locations, operators will be required to remove trash receptacles, except clear plastic or bomb-resistant trash containers.  
  • When needed, canine explosive teams may be utilized to screen passenger baggage, terminals and trains.  
  • Rail operators will conduct facility inspections for suspicious or unattended items.
  • Rail operators will ensure that security is at appropriate levels consistent with the DHS established threat level.

The protective measures announced May 20 are the latest in a series of initiatives DHS, the Department of Transportation and the industry have put in place to strengthen rail security. These measures include:

  • Assessing new technologies at the New Carrollton, Md., Amtrak and Maryland Rail Commuter station
  • Conducting comprehensive vulnerability assessments of rail and transit networks that operate in high-density urban areas
  • Training for rail personnel in preventing and responding to potential terrorist events
  • Allocating over $115 million since May 2003 to improve rail and transit security in urban areas
  • Developing new technologies including chemical and biological countermeasures

“The safety and security of our passengers is Amtrak’s top priority. Amtrak will continue to work closely with the TSA on these and other measures, such as this month’s pilot project screening passengers and baggage our New Carrollton, MD, rail station,” Amtrak said in a statement.

“Many of the security measures outlined in the DHS security directive are ones that Amtrak already utilizes to ensure the safety and security of our passengers. We continue to ask passengers and employees for vigilance in this time of heightened security and to report any suspicious persons or activity to Amtrak police or other local law enforcement.” News Wire Editor Todd DeFeo contributed to this report.