BLET testimony: Rail workers key to national security plans

The U.S. railroad industry must take immediate action to improve the security training of its workers if they are to help prevent terrorist attacks in the United States.

That was the message delivered by BLET Vice President and National Legislative Representative John Tolman before the House Homeland Security Committee's Subcommittee on Economic Security, Infrastructure Protection and Cybersecurity.

In his testimony, he cited the "High Alert" report compiled by the Teamsters Rail Conference. In the High Alert survey, 84 percent of respondents said that they had not received any additional training in terrorism response or prevention in the 12 months preceding the survey; and 99 percent said they did not receive training related to the monitoring of nuclear shipments.

"This lack of training should be of critical interest to citizens who live near rail yards and tracks," Tolman said. "The workers who lack this training will be the first ones to respond to incidents. It's all about the money, of course, but employees still need adequate training. The number one issue in national negotiations is to reduce the crew size from one to two to save money. There should be a minimum of two people on every train."

The training is critical because railroad workers are the "eyes and ears" of the industry and are the first line of defense in the event of a terrorist attack on a freight train or passenger train.

"Each and every day, we are on the front lines of the nation's transportation system and see the woeful lack of security on our railroads," Tolman said. "This lack of security is more than just troubling; it is tragic because we have seen the damage that can be done by accidents on the railroads and shudder to think of the damage that could be wrought by terrorism or sabotage."

He noted that there have been more than 250 terror attacks on railroads world wide from 1995 until June of 2005. Since June 2005, there have been major attacks perpetrated in London, Madrid, and Mumbai, India. In the United States, plans were recently uncovered to attack the New York subway system on three different occasions. An act of terrorism in Hyder, Ariz., killed one Amtrak employee and injured 78 people on October 9, 1995. That case was never solved.

"The frequency and severity of the attacks on railroads worldwide and here at home demonstrate the urgency for change in the way our rail security system works," he said.

Tolman also discussed the disparity between airline security funding and rail security funding. He observed that the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration spends $9 per airline passenger on security, but only spends one penny per rail/mass transit passenger.

In addition to Vice President Tolman, the following individuals testified before the subcommittee: John Sammon, Transportation Sector Network Management, Transportation Security Administration; Terry Rosapep, Deputy Associate Administrator, Office of Program Management, Federal Transit Agency; William Fagan, Director of Security, Federal Railroad Administration; Edward Wytkind, President, Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO; Chief Polly Hanson, Metro Transit Police Department, Washington Metro Area Transit Authority; and Edward Hamberger, President & CEO, Association of American Railroads.



© 2006 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen