Al Qaeda documents raise concern about railway safety

New York, May 9: Transportation officials and experts have expressed concern over whether enough is being done to ensure the safety of railway passengers in the wake of the revelation that al Qaeda was considering targeting U.S. rail lines.

New York Senator Charles Schumer said there should even be a "do not ride" list for Amtrak, similar to the no-fly lists that are part of the airline security effort.

Intelligence inputs indicate that by tampering with the American railway network, al Qaeda was hoping to send the whole train system into a tumble.

"The targeting of the railroad infrastructure itself is a much smarter move on the part of the terrorists, because you get more bang for the buck," Kevin Lynch, a retired freight rail police chief who consults on railroad police practices, told ABC News.

There are 140,000 miles of freight and passenger track in the United States, not counting subway systems and light rail, as well as 3,100 train and transit stations.

There were over four billion passenger rail trips last year from commuters rushing to work, students heading to school and families out on vacation.

On any one day, 78,000 people ride Amtrak, 660,000 step on the elevated trains in Chicago, and 8 million ride the New York City subway system.

In recent years, anti-terror deterrents have been introduced, such as additional bomb detection equipment and new vapor wake detection dogs trained to smell every possible component of explosives, which the Department of Transportation announced in late October.

A most recent record to step up the nation's rail security was seen in July when Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano launched the first phase of the agency's "See Something, Say Something" campaign, requesting the public play a role in pointing out potential railway threats.

The effort is part of a series of events called Operation Rail Safe, which includes local, state, and federal efforts to increase occasional security presence onboard trains, canine sweeps and random passenger bag inspections at unannounced locations.
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