New rail security bill introduced in U.S. House

Oberstar-backed bill would provide more than $1 billion to protect against terrorism

Representative James Oberstar (D-Minn.) has introduced a bill that would require the Department of Transportation and the Department of Homeland Security to develop and implement plans for addressing the issue of rail security. The purpose of the Rail Security Act of 2005, or H.R. 2351, is to provide for the safety and security of the United States railroads, passengers, workers and communities, and to establish an assistance program for families involved in rail accidents.

The bill, which currently has 14 cosponsors, authorizes more than $1 billion to safeguard our nation's rail network from terrorist threats, $500 million of which is authorized for grants to state and local governments, railroad carriers, rail labor and others for costs incurred for preventing or responding to terrorist activities or other security threats to intercity passenger rail and freight rail service.

Under the bill, Amtrak will receive $100 million for security upgrades, plus a total of $597 million to make fire and life-safety improvements to tunnels on the Northeast Corridor in New York, New York; Baltimore, Maryland; and Washington, D.C. This funding is critical to protect Amtrak's 25 million passengers, two-thirds of whom travel along the Northeast Corridor.

The bill authorizes $50 million for the Secretary of Homeland Security to create a research and development program to improve freight and intercity passenger rail security. The Secretary of Homeland Security is also required to develop a national plan for public outreach and awareness and a study on passenger, baggage, and cargo screening.

Moreover, the Rail Security Act of 2005 focuses on an issue that security bills often ignore: the importance of ensuring that key workers have the support and training required to protect our rail system, whether those workers are railroad employees or emergency responders.

"Rail workers are truly the eyes and ears of the rail industry," said Oberstar. "They greet passengers, sell tickets, operate trains, maintain track and signal systems, dispatch trains, operate bridges, and repair cars. They are in the most direct position to spot security risks and potential threats. This bill requires rail carriers to provide security training to these workers to ensure that they are prepared to take appropriate action against threat conditions."

BLET members are encouraged to call their members of Congress and urge them to support this important piece of legislation.



© 2005 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen