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Lynch seeks training for rail workers

(The following article was posted on the Holbrook Sun website on December 8.)

HOLBROOK, Mass. -- Congressman Stephen Lynch has introduced the "Rail Worker Emergency Training Act of 2005," legislation which would establish a comprehensive emergency training program for all rail workers.

Lynch filed the bill in response to reports that an overwhelming majority of surveyed rail workers feel that America's railroads are still highly vulnerable to a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or other emergencies due to a number of security gaps and lack of training.

In September, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters Rail Security Conference issued a unique rail security report entitled "High Alert: Workers Warn of Security Gaps on Nation's Railroads."

The report was based on over 4,000 surveys completed by members of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division (BMWED).

According to the report, there is a significant lack of adequate rail worker training.

The report reveals that 84 percent of the rail workers surveyed indicated that they had not received any or additional terrorism prevention and response training within the last 12 months; 99 percent reported that they had not received specific training related to the monitoring of nuclear waste shipments; and 62 percent said that they had not been trained about their role in their railroad's Emergency Action Plan or Emergency Response Plan.

Lynch has been a leader on the issue of rail security in the 109th Congress. Earlier this year, he introduced the "Rail Transit Safety and Security Act of 2005," legislation which would overhaul training for rail workers, expand safety and communications systems, and improve emergency preparedness of America's rail networks and personnel.

Because the Republican leadership has refused to take up the bill, Lynch has introduced new legislation which focuses on those provisions that improve training for rail workers.

"Four years after Sept. 11, two years after the Madrid bombings, and six months after the bombings in London, the United States have still not taken the necessary steps to improve rail security," Lynch said. "Our rail workers haven't received terrorism prevention and response training, and we are wholly unprepared to prevent and respond to a terrorist attack or disaster on the rails. It's inexcusable. This is a low-cost and enormously effective step we can take to heighten security and preparedness on our railways. It's a matter of common sense."

The Rail Worker Emergency Training Act of 2005 would

Require the secretary of Homeland Security, within 90 days of enactment, to establish comprehensive guidelines for a rail worker emergency training program. The secretary's guidelines must address several key areas, including critical infrastructure and equipment security inspection; hazardous material storage, transport, and monitoring; unauthorized rail yard access; locomotive cab securement; and evacuation procedures in the event of fire or natural disaster.

Require the secretary to consult with the secretary of transportation and "appropriate rail entities," including, freight and passenger railroad carriers, rail worker unions, public safety officials, and state departments of transportation.

Require rail carriers to develop a rail worker training program based on the secretary's guidelines and train all of their rail workers within one year.

Authorize the secretary to issue letters of noncompliance, to be published in the Federal Register, to any carrier that fails to comply with the act's requirements.

Appropriate $100 million to the secretary to carry out the act.

"There are five times as many people who travel by train as compared to those who use airplanes, but since Sept. 11, the United States have spent 60 times more dollars on airline security than rail security," Lynch said. "Many of our rail systems have emergency response plans, but they're worthless if rail workers don't know they exist. It's time to establish clear guidelines for emergency training and prepare our rail workers to respond to a terrorist attack."

Lynch's legislation has received letters of support from both the Teamsters Rail Security Conference and the Transport Workers Union of America.

Friday, December 9, 2005

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