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U.S. Senator Joseph Biden sees increased rail security as a priority

(The BLETís Pennsylvania State Legislative Board issued the following news release on February 4.)

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) has found a strong ally in their continuing efforts to see rail security addressed. The ally is U.S. Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (D-DE). At the January 25, 2005 Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Biennial Legislative Conference in Hershey, PA, where he spoke on the importance of labor to this country, Senator Biden extended an invitation to the Pennsylvania BLET leaders to meet with him in Washington to discuss ways to implement a national rail security plan in Pennsylvania.

Senator Biden is one of the Senate's strongest labor supporters and is also known as a leader on national security. In 2004, in a bi-partisan effort with Senator John McCain (R-Ariz), the Rail Security Act of 2004 was introduced authorizing nearly $1.2 billion to help protect passenger and freight railroads from potential terrorist attacks. Although the bill did not pass, Senator Biden plans to reintroduce the legislation in 2005.

Committed to rail security, Senator Biden released a comprehensive report on threats to U.S. railways and called on President Bush to do more to protect American train passengers. In the report, Senator Biden set forth the status of rail security in the United States. In the first comprehensive report released by Senator Biden which details the government's response to terrorist threats against our nation's rail systems, he outlines the direct threats to our rail systems, the urgent need to enhance security, and recommends steps to be immediately taken.

In a press release announcing the report, Senator Biden said, "As we saw in Madrid this spring (2004), rail systems are some of the most vulnerable and attractive terrorist targets throughout the world. There have been hundreds of attacks worldwide and al Qaeda operatives have directly targeted U.S. rail systems with conventional and chemical attacks."

"There are many simple, effective steps that can be immediately taken to enhance security," the Senator added. "We need to install bomb-resistant trash cans, protect chemical tank cars, improve lighting, increase bomb-sniffing dog patrols, install closed-circuit television to monitor sensitive locations, such as tunnels and bridges, and increase training of first responders."

Another early step that can help rail security is to positively identify train personnel and train them to be first reactors. According to the BLET, this is one of the priorities in their plan for rail security.

Transportation unions, like the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET), have been staunch supporters of Senator Biden who has earned national and international recognition as a policy innovator, effective legislator and party spokesman on national security and civil liberties.

"We strongly agree with Senator Biden and applaud his efforts," John Tolman of the BLET's Washington Government Relations Office, said. "Rail security is a serious issue and the northeast corridor needs the type of leadership that Senator Biden is demonstrating."

Ken Kertesz, Legislative Board Chairman of the BLET in Pennsylvania, agreed saying, "On January 31 in Harrisburg, the transportation labor unions from New Jersey, Ohio, Delaware, New York and DC voted to join forces to form an aggressive grassroots coalition. Addressing rail security will be one of our priorities," he said, "and our regional organizations plan to review transportation issues with Senator Biden in Washington this spring."

Founded on May 8, 1863, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers is the senior rail labor organization in North America. Recently, the BLET merged with the Teamsters to work together on transportation security issues.

For more information regarding this news release, please contact Nathan Pigott at 717-975-2148 or npigott@hersheyphilbin.com.

Monday, February 7, 2005

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