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North Texas security risk sits on tracks

(The following article was posted on Dallas television station NBC 5’s website on June 1. Terry Briggs is the BLET’s Texas State Legislative Board Chairman.)

FORT WORTH, Texas -- A security risk is rolling right through North Texas towns and cities.

An NBC 5 investigation reveals freight trains pulling thousands of gallons of hazardous materials are often left unmanned and unguarded. And, there is evidence the nation's rail lines are one step short of disaster.

Every day, freight trains loaded with the nation's most toxic and dangerous chemicals simply roll through the Metroplex, unguarded.

"It really shocks me to see the cavalier attitude in the rail industry," said Terry Briggs of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen.

Those working the rails insist security is non-existent and the rail companies are to blame.

"They know what the threat is and they are not doing anything about it," Briggs said.
The threat is giant tankers filled with highly toxic chemicals like anydrous ammonia, sulphuric acid and even chlorine.

"Chlorine is extremely toxic and deadly," said Kenny Shaw of Dallas Emergency Management.

Emergency responders call them potential targets, nothing short of bombs on steel wheels.

"I don't put anything by terrorists either foreign or domestic," Shaw said.

NBC 5 found a chlorine tanker car parked not a half-mile from downtown Grand Prairie.
NBC 5's Grant Stinchfield was there for almost 10 minutes and no one came by to ask any questions. In fact anyone can walk right up to the tankers and there is no one in sight.

The investigation quickly exposed the large gaps in railroad security. The news crew was able to drive its vehicle right into the rail yard. They stopped at the no trespassing sign, but would a terrorist?

"It's absolutely not going to deter them at all if they are intent on going into a rail yard," Briggs said.

But it gets worse: Just five blocks from downtown Fort Worth are sodium hydroxide containers.

If a terrorist blew one of the cars up, emergency responders warn all of downtown Fort Worth would be at risk of severe injury or even death.

So what do the railroad companies have to say about this? They wouldn't talk to us, instead they referred us to a statement from their industry trade group: "The Association of American Railroads, the industry, is committed to providing appropriate security measures to protect its employees, and infrastructure, as well as the nation."

But after two days of searching, NBC 5 couldn't find any security measures in place.
"In this day and age, we need to start looking at some sort of laws and regulations to require hazmat to be secured in some sort of fashion than to be parked out in the open," Shaw said.

"Communities are basically in the dark about this," Briggs said.

Even engineers are blowing the whistle on rail security.

The railroad industry also asks the public to serve as a second set of eyes and ears.
Anyone who sees suspicious activity along the rail lines should contact their police department or sheriff's office.

Friday, June 2, 2006

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