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Security experts warn of vulnerabilities to U.S. rail system

(RailSecure issued the following news release on February 14.)

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Two leading experts in railroad security warned a rail industry conference today of the prospect of future domestic terrorist attacks directed at both passenger and freight railroads. It was also pointed out that significant security vulnerabilities, coupled with funding shortfalls for infrastructure enhancements, combine to make the rail industry a potential target of transnational terrorist groups.

Kim E. Petersen and John P. Hart, both executives with US-based RailSecure LLC, a global leader in passenger and freight rail security and counter-terrorism consulting, were speaking before the Rail Industry Safety Conference, jointly hosted by the Association of American Railroads and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

Their presentation, "The Rail Industry as a Terrorist Target", described how hundreds of terror attacks have been leveled against the rail industry. There have been over 181 attacks on trains and related rail targets worldwide between 1998 and 2003, in such countries as Colombia, India, Spain, Pakistan, United Kingdom, United States, and Venezuela. The most recent major attack was directed against commuter trains in Spain on March 11, 2004 by persons with ties to al-Qa'ida. In this most recent incident, more than 190 persons were killed by 10 bombs placed on four separate trains.

US authorities have warned that they have unconfirmed intelligence that terrorists operating in the United States have shown an interest in passenger rail operations, as well as freight trains carrying hazardous materials. During a discussion of past terror incidents, Petersen pointed out that attacks against railroads are more numerous and deadly than those on airports and airplanes. Trains have seen deliberate derailments, attacks by gunfire, hostage taking, bombings, and even an attack with a weapon of mass destruction: the use of Sarin gas - a chemical warfare agent - by members of the Aum Shinrikyo cult in their attack against the Tokyo subway which killed 11 and injured over 5,500 people.

Petersen concluded his remarks by making several recommendations designed to mitigate some of the known risks. It was suggested that railroad operators repair or replace dilapidated fencing around rail facilities; install security lighting around facilities and critical infrastructure; replace garbage cans at passenger rails stations with blast-resistant, transparent trash containers to prevent their being used for concealing IEDs (improvised explosive devices); install closed-circuit television systems to monitor facilities, tunnels, and bridges; install signage to increase awareness about unattended packages, evacuation procedures, and restricted areas; train railroad staff to identify suspicious behavior, as well as packages or luggage, and improve emergency response actions; and, educate passengers on the need for their vigilance in spotting suspicious persons or items that could represent a threat to public safety.

"In an industry that prides itself on its passenger and employee safety record, significant work is now underway to address emerging threats from terrorism and crime," said Hart in closing. "Transnational terrorists have already demonstrated a preparedness to attack commuter, passenger, freight, and intermodal train operations. It is therefore essential that each component of our rail industry complete threat and vulnerability assessments, and begin the process of creating a strong security infrastructure that will provide deterrence to terrorist attacks. At the same time, the federal government must do a better job of allocating counterterrorism resources to the rail industry. Each day trains carry ten times more passengers that commercial airlines do, yet the rail industry has received only one percent of the security grant monies awarded to the aviation industry. In light of the tragic events of Madrid, quite clearly some changes in priorities are in order."

About RailSecure
RailSecure is the first company in the United States dedicated exclusively to railroad security and risk management. A multi-disciplinary company, RailSecure provides risk consulting services (including security vulnerability assessments, and design & engineering); risk management solutions (including project management, procurement assistance, and management software tools); training; and, rail guarding services. It also performs physical, personnel, and information security training and certification to both industry and government. www.railsecure.com

Monday, February 28, 2005

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