Rail Labor Warns Congress on Lax Security
May 10, 2004
Rail labor representatives had a sobering message for Congress this week: improve rail security or risk a deadly train bombing like Madrid in America.
"The administration has done little to harden vulnerable rail targets, ensure the training of employees or provide the level of funding that is so desperately needed for training, new technology deployment and infrastructure improvements," said AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department President Edward Wytkind said on Wednesday.
Wytkind spoke on behalf of 35 AFL-CIO transportation unions, including the IBEW, and offered several suggestions to the House Rail Subcommittee. Among those recommendations were mandatory security training for employees, strengthened whistle-blower protections against harassment, federal regulations on the use of remote control locomotive technology and increased security for rail facilities and unattended trains. He joined officials from the Transportation Security Administration, the Federal Railroad Administration and industry leaders for the discussion.
IBEW Railroad Department Director Ray Cobb said it would be impossible to protect every tunnel and bridge that trains use, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Cobb, who serves as a rail labor representative at the Homeland Security Department, receives FBI alerts sometimes as often as twice a week that he disperses to general chairmen.
Railroads are clearly not an emphasis for significant security upgrades. The federal government has spent $11 billion to improve aviation safety since September 11, 2001, and only $100 million on rail security. And nearly three years after September 11 changed the landscape of transportation in America, officials are still working on an initial assessment of threats to the rail system, officials told the panel.
Wytkind criticized the rail industrys opposition to federal mandates.
"We need to ensure that security is not left to the whims of individual carriers or cut when profit margins get tight," Wytkind said.
Amtrak Again Avoids
Fiscal Derailment. But Whats Next?