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Investigators: Terror trains

(The following article was posted on Fresno television station CBS Channel 47ís website on April 28. Gary Watkins is BLET Division 553 Legislative Representative. Division 553 is located in Calwa City, Calif.)

FRESNO, Calif. -- Millions of tons of hazardous chemicals are transported on trains every year. Here in Fresno those trains move right through our neighborhoods and downtown.

Could these trains become terrorist targets? If so, what is Fresno doing to prevent such an attack? CBS 47's Allison Ash investigated.

Since 9-11, security has been raised around the country. We now experience increased airport security, bag searches at baseball games and required identification to book travel plans. But some people are afraid we are over-looking a serious threat... the railroad.

A new government report says just one attack on a train car of chlorine could kill 100,000 people in a half hour's time. That's roughly one-quarter of Fresno's population. For that reason many large cities around the country have considered limiting hazardous cargo trains from entering their city. But here in Fresno, that may not be practical. The city is actually built around the tracks.

CBS 47 went to the train tracks on the edge of downtown. There was no fence, no rail police or security. We hung around for over a half-hour and no one questioned why we were there or what we were doing.

Veteran railroad engineer Gary Watkins says not enough is being done to secure the railroads.

"It boils down to money. Pure and simple, the transportation security administration has spent something like twenty billion dollars since 2001, of which maybe 250 million went to rail security."

Is Fresno's fire department prepared for an attack on a hazardous train car? Battalion Chief Chuck Tobias says their haz-mat response team is well trained and on-call around the clock. However, he admits there are some things that a crew can't prepare for...

"There's nothing we can do to patch up a tank car that has a catastrophic release, and in fact if there was a catastrophic release, what is remaining is coming out all at once."

For more information: http://www.teamster.org/divisions/rail/pdfs/railsecuritybook.pdf
http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/news/FreightRailSecurityActionItemsFinal.pdf
Powerful video: http://www.cbs47.tv/mediacenter/?videoID=44017

Thursday, May 18, 2006

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