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FRA refuses to act on rail security improvements

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio, January 18 — The head of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has refused to take any action whatsoever to protect passenger railroad workers and the traveling public in and around the nation’s capital following the deadly January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill.

On January 11, the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers – Transportation Division (SMART-TD) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) petitioned the FRA to issue an emergency order to tighten security and enhance penalties for violators, and to increase personnel to a level that brings passenger rail security more in line with aviation security overseen by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as the threat of political violence swirls.

In a January 14 response to the BLET and SMART-TD demand, Administrator Batory declined to take any action whatsoever, claiming that the FRA was the wrong federal agency to address the unions’ security concerns, and that it would be inappropriate to issue an emergency order.

“Instead of taking the most basic, proactive steps to protect passenger rail workers and the traveling public from the very real threat of political violence, the FRA has refused to act,” BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce said. “It is disappointing but not unexpected that Administrator Batory has decided to pass the buck on this important issue of railroad safety and security.”

In his January 14 letter, Administrator Batory said the unions should seek help from the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration instead.

Anticipating the FRA’s lack of leadership, the unions also petitioned the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on January 13 to implement a “No-Ride List” on passenger rail carriers, similar to the “No-Fly List” implemented by the FAA for the airline industry. The BLET and SMART-TD said the No-Ride List was necessary because those who took part in the January 6 insurrection were subsequently placed on the FAA’s No-Fly List, and those individuals may turn to rail travel instead.

DHS has yet to respond to the unions’ request. On January 14, Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn said he supports the BLET and SMART-TD’s call for a No-Ride List.

A PDF of Administrator Batory’s January 14 letter to BLET and SMART-TD is available here.

Monday, January 18, 2021

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