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Opinion: Railroad security fits into overall strategy to thwart terrorism

(The following editorial was posted on the News Journal website on August 24.)

WILMINGTON, Del. -- It's downright irresponsible that the federal Transportation Security Administration continues to ignore funding for security on the nation's railroad system. It is especially frustrating in light of train bombings in London, Moscow and Madrid.

We understand that security for railroad travelers and at the stations is more challenging than at airports, where passengers are more closely monitored and controlled. But that's no reason to completely blow off at least installing security cameras and training Amtrak employees to deal with potential risks.

That's what Rep. Mike Castle wants to do with legislation he plans to introduce next month in Congress. In addition, Rep. Castle's bill would require creation of a national rail security strategy.

Rep. Castle, who is co-chairman of the Passenger Rail Caucus created last spring, and Sens. Joseph Biden and Thomas Carper are correct when they complain too much anti-terrorism money is being spent on air security while railroads are given short shrift.

Security appropriations need to be spread out among all forms of transportation where risks exist, particularly railroad tunnels. Currently, the federal government spends only $1 for rail security for every $70 it spends on air security, even though five times more people use railroads than fly on airplanes.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff argues that one terror attack on an airliner can kill 3,000 people while bombing a train might kill 30. The number of potential casualties is not the point. Anything Homeland Security officials can do to stave off attacks makes us safer. The more effort and money put into surface transportation security, the less likely terrorists will make it a target.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

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