Amtrak Finally Getting On Board
- By Ralph C. Jensen
- Feb 19, 2008
New this week, Amtrak is jumping into the security business and will start randomly screening passenger’s carry-on bags. In the new push for secure transportation, officers will be armed with automatic weapons and employ bomb sniffing dogs on platforms and inside trains.
This represents a major shift for Amtrak because, until now, there has been relatively little visible security since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Amtrak assures riders that the new security checks will not hold up passenger flow.
Amtrak officials say on-time performance is a key element in the train transportation business, which is something the airlines could take to heart.
Train service and security also will not require passengers to arrive at stations early, and those passengers who are randomly selected for screening will only be delayed a couple of minutes. Rail officials say they are aware that commuters have only a few precious minutes to go from train to train.
Rail transportation hasn’t been off the radar, but it certainly hasn’t received the attention, nor the funding that airports have been given. However, Amtrak security has been paramount since the 2004 bombings of commuter trains in Madrid, and in London in 2005. In 2006, 200 people were killed from a blast in Mumbai, India. The new security plans mean that New York City subways will be the model, and new mobile security teams will roll out on the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston.
Security teams will show up unannounced and set up baggage screening areas in front of the boarding gates. Passengers will be pulled out of line randomly and their bags will be wiped with a special swab and run through an explosives detection machine.
Here’s the best part. Anyone refusing to participate in screening will not be allowed to board and their ticket will be refunded.
It’s about time the rail transportation services received a security nod, after all, rail moves a lot more people than air carriers.
Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.