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Foiling Railway Terrorism

Final Rule Issued by Homeland Security
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced new regulations at the end of 2008 aimed at strengthening the security of the nation's freight and passenger rail systems and reducing the risk associated with the transportation of security-sensitive materials.
DHS"s Transportation Security Administration (TSA) created the final rule to establish security requirements for freight railroad carriers; passenger train service providers; rail transit systems; and rail operations at certain, fixed-site facilities that ship or receive specified hazardous materials by rail. Under the final rule, TSA"s inspection program was made official and requires rail providers to allow TSA and DHS officials to enter, inspect, and test property, facilities, conveyances, and records relevant to rail security.  This rule also requires that regulated parties designate rail security coordinators and report significant security concerns.
Freight rail carriers and certain facilities handling specified hazardous materials must be able to (1) report location and shipping information to TSA upon request and (2) implement chain of custody requirements to ensure a positive and secure exchange of specified hazardous materials. 
Past Acts of Terrorism
In developing this rule, TSA looked at all possible threats to rail transportation.  TSA recognized that passenger railroad carriers, commuter operations, and subway systems are "high consequence targets- in terms of potential loss of life and economic disruption.  They carry large numbers of people in a confined environment, offer the opportunity for specific populations to be targeted at particular destinations, and often have stations located below or adjacent to high profile government buildings, major office complexes, and iconic structures. Terrorist bombings since 1995 highlight the need for improved government access to, and monitoring of, transportation of passengers by rail.  Terrorists have attacked the Tokyo subway system (1995); areas in and around the Moscow subway system (2000, 2001, and 2004); Madrid commuter trains (2004); the London Underground system (2005); and the train system in Mumbai, India (2006).
Security on the Open Range
TSA reviewed the threats that face freight rail transportation.  Due to the open infrastructure of the rail transportation system, freight trains can be particularly vulnerable to attack.  Rail carriers and shippers were lacking a positive chain of custody and control procedures for rail cars as they moved through the transportation system (e.g., as entities load the rail cars at originating facilities, as carriers transport the cars over the tracks, and as entities unload the cars at receiving facilities). Whenever entities stop rail cars in transit and interchange them without appropriate security measures, it creates security vulnerabilities.  Freight trains transporting hazardous materials are of even more concern, because an attack on those trains (e.g., through the placement of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or other forms of sabotage) could result in the release of hazardous materials. Because of these major vulnerabilities and to correct the problem, the new ruling was issued.
To view the 204-page Rail Security Final Rule, visit

By Adam Herschkowitz
Get Railroad Jobs, Contributing Editor

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