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Anti-terror drill puts railroads to test

(The following story by Richard Weir appeared on the Boston Herald website on October 9, 2010.)

BOSTON — Armed officers patrolled platforms and police dogs sniffed for bombs aboard Amtrak trains throughout the Bay State and across the nation yesterday as part of Operation RailSafe, a one-day exercise to thwart terrorism.

The multi-agency surge, the sixth since it was created in September 2008, combined crews from the MBTA’s transit police, Amtrak police, the Transportation Security Administration and other law-enforcement agencies.

“Joint security exercises like Operation RailSafe are designed to make it harder and harder for terrorists to use their preferred strategies to attack our stations, trains and passengers,” said Amtrak Police Chief John O’Connor, noting the effort “will further enhance the readiness and communication capabilities of hundreds of police and security officials stationed in some of the busiest rail passenger areas in the U.S.”

Amtrak spokesman Cliff Cole cited security reasons for declinging to say which of the Bay State’s 11 Amtrak stops, including North and South stations, were involved in the drills.

“One of the goals is to keep the element of surprise for anyone who would want to do harm to our passengers,” Cole said, adding that the operation had nothing to do with an alert issued Sunday warning travelers in Europe to be careful of terrorism.

Cole said RailSafe included random passenger baggage screening, heightened station patrols, an increased security presence on trains and explosive detection sweeps with canine units on platforms and aboard trains.

Monday, October 11, 2010

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