Bill to tighten rail security introduced

Bill to tighten rail security introduced

WASHINGTON -- A day after commuter train bombings killed more than 200 people and injured 1,500 others in Spain, a group of U.S. senators introduced legislation that would increase efforts to protect passenger and cargo on the nation's rail network.

The Rail Transportation Security Act (S2216) would require the Department of Homeland Security to assess railroad security risks and report back to Congress within six months. It would provide $515 million to make improvements recommended in the report.

The bill also would require the Department of Transportation and DHS to review and identify safety existing regulations that could be improved to enhance railroad security.

"The tragic events yesterday in Madrid prove that rail systems are vulnerable to terrorist attacks," bill cosponsor Thomas R. Carper, D-Del., said Friday when the bill was introduced.

"The harsh truth is that our passenger rail system is far from safe and unless we do something about it and do it quickly, we could suffer a similar or worse fate," said co-sponsor Joseph R. Biden Jr., D-Del.

The bill would require a study to determine the cost and feasibility of screening passengers, cargo and baggage on all Amtrak trains, and would establish a pilot random screening program at five of the busiest rail stations in the country. It would also direct federal agencies to review how other nations respond to security threats on their rail systems.

In addition, the bill would provide $777 million to improve Amtrak and commuter rail tunnels in New York, Baltimore and Washington.

The bill was introduced by Ernest F. Hollings, D-S.C., along with co-sponsors including Republican Olympia J. Snowe of Maine. Hollings is the senior Democrat on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.