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Rail maintenance employees join BLET in Pa. rail security survey

(The BLET Pennsylvania State Legislative Board issued the following news release on September 8.)

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The Pennsylvania Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees has joined the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen in the system-wide "Safe Rail, Secure Pennsylvania" survey underway throughout the state's rail system.

"We will identify existing structural weaknesses in the Pennsylvania rail system and join the BLET in making appropriate recommendations to improve security and safety for passengers, freight and communities impacted by rail transport," William K. Manning, Pennsylvania State Legislative Board Chairman, said today in Harrisburg.

Manning said the BMWE will survey 4,000 track maintenance employees throughout the state within the next 60 days to identify security vulnerabilities on Pennsylvania's railroads.

"The 2003 report on rail security by the Government Accounting Office concluded there is no way to determine if the rail industry efforts have efficiently deterred terrorism," Manning said.

"This system survey approach is the most efficient way to identify security vulnerabilities from the ground up, because locomotive engineers operate all types of trains, both passenger and freight, every day throughout the Commonwealth, and we maintain all the rail yards, rail beds and tracks throughout the state."

Manning added, "We are the eyes and ears of the rail system in Pennsylvania. We are the first line of defense against acts of terror on our railroads, and we have a responsibility to the public to identify infrastructure vulnerabilities and emergency response capabilities."

Ken Kertesz, Chairman of the Pennsylvania State Legislative Board of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), welcomed the BMWE involvement in "Safe Rail, Secure Pennsylvania" survey.

"We are taking this action in part to respond to Governor Rendell's directive for a prompt and broad range of notifications and consultations to bring protective resources to their highest capacity," Kertesz noted.

"These thousands of men and women operate the entire system every day, and they are in a good position to identify and report security vulnerabilities." He said.

Once vulnerabilities and threats are identified, Kertesz said the BLET will provide a report of findings and recommendations to Pennsylvania Homeland Security Director Keith Martin.

"We are working closely with Director Martin," Kertesz noted," and we will of course provide him with our findings."

Kertesz and Manning estimated completing the survey, "Safe Rail, Secure Pennsylvania" in about 60 days, with a full report of findings in approximately 90 days.

Terrorist attacks against rail systems have recently occurred in Spain, Russia, India and Pakistan and the FBI reported that Al Queda operatives in U.S. were found to be gathering information about rail systems in the northeast.

Both Kertesz and Manning emphasized that Pennsylvania has one of the best safety records of any rail system in the world. "Our trains are safe, and we expect the "Safe Rail, Secure Pennsylvania" survey will facilitate security improvements throughout our rail system."

In a recently released report by Pennsylvania Homeland Security, "2003 Commonwealth of PA 3-Year Homeland Security Assessment and Strategy", the nine Regional Counter-Terrorism Task Force Teams submitted the top ten vulnerable sites. In each of the nine regions, railroads were listed in the top three.

For further information on this issue, contact Linda Rhinehart, lrhinehart@hersheyphilbin.com (717) 975-2148.

Representing 50,000 active and retired members nationally, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) is a Division of the Rail Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. More information about the Pennsylvania BLET is available at, www.pslb-blet.org.

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

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