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Teamsters Bash Rail Security

UNSECURED TRACKS and other infrastructure, overworked staff, rampant trespassing in railyards, and the absence of visible rail police combine to create a U.S. railway system that is “one step shy of disaster,” according to a survey of unionized railroad workers.

In two surveys split by worker responsibility, more than 4,000 Teamsters—including engineers, trainmen, conductors, track workers, and other maintenance staff—warned of unattended tank cars, the lack of security training, the absence of backup staff, and other problems. They paint a portrait of a rail system that remains dangerously vulnerable.

Among the ills cited by trainmen: 84 percent said railyard access was not secure on the day they took the survey; 96 percent said there was no visible rail police presence in the yard.

Sixty-three percent said that their train or equipment was delayed or left unattended for an extended period of time that day, and 55 percent of these trains had hazardous materials aboard; 87 percent said there was not another certified engineer on hand to provide assistance or relief in case of a hijacking or other emergency.

Among track workers, bridge staff, and electric-traction personnel, 83 percent replied that they had not received any additional terrorism training in the previous twelve months. Ninety-three percent said that either the railroad hasn’t increased inspections at critical points such as tunnels (42 percent) or that they didn’t know whether the railroad had done so (51 percent).

The Teamsters Rail Conference calls for a security plan to be approved and enforced by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The program would require securing critical points of infrastructure, increasing minimum requirements for inspections of critical infrastructure, manning and securing movable railroad bridges, improving storage of hazardous materials in transport, providing distress codes for engineers to alert law enforcement of an emergency, and various other measures.

Another report, this one by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), notes that the TSA still has not set timelines for the completion of risk assessments for passenger rail systems or the establishment of a methodology for analyzing and characterizing identified risks.