Jim Hall, who led the National Transportation Safety Board in the 1990s, said officials should take an in-depth look at railroad security now to ensure that passengers and the dangerous commodities that freight railroads haul are kept safe. He said the Capitol riot showed the threat posed by domestic terrorism.
“I really don’t think anybody could look at the Capitol scene that we all saw and not realize the potential is there for groups that do not have the interests of the United States at heart to affect our transportation system,” he said.
With more than 140,000 miles (225,300 kilometers) of track nationwide and hundreds of different railroads involved it would take time to determine how best to improve security across the network and likely billions of dollars to make the changes. Hall, though, said such a review is overdue.
“I think it’s time to take a hard look at that issue and not wait as we did in aviation to reform the system until after 9/11,” Hall said, referring to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “I’d be surprised if anybody would debate that the current security system around our rail transportation in the United States is adequate to protect the people and the products.”
Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn said he supports the unions' call for a no-ride list for railroads and that he thinks it should be a federal crime to assault a railroad worker, like it is to attack an airline industry worker. He said Amtrak plans to deploy additional police officers on its trains and at stations over the next few days.
“In addition to limiting ticket sales and requiring masks to be worn at all times, we are increasing our police enforcement to ensure strong compliance, remove noncomplying customers and ban those that don’t follow our policies," Flynn said.
The unions also asked the Federal Railroad Administration to require more security, but that agency declined to intervene Thursday because the Department of Homeland Security has jurisdiction over such matters.