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The railroads have the primary responsibility of protecting the physical and intangible assets of the rail system. Railroads haul many types of hazardous materials including flammable liquids, explosives, and toxic solids, liquids, and gases. These materials can cause damage to property, the environment, and people both in the immediate vicinity of the railroad and many miles away if there is a railway failure or terrorist attack. The railroads are required to inspect and maintain their cars, bridges, tracks, and communications systems. The government checks for compliance, and the Department of Homeland Security is working on strengthening and clarifying the inspection and maintenance processes (Wald). The railroads are also in possession of the databases containing all of the information about hazardous material shipments. The security of the databases is managed by the railroads, leaving the potential for sensitive information concerning shipments of hazardous materials to end up in the wrong hands. It is up to the railroads to reveal information to the state and local agencies concerning the transportation of hazardous materials. More information about information sharing of railroad databases can be found under regulations, control, and communications.

This dilapidated fence is all that protects the tracks in downtown Altoona.  Terrorists and others with criminal intentions could easily breach this fence and attack a train.  The Amtrak station is on the other side of the tracks, providing easy access to a hijacker who wishes to board a passenger train.

We have thought of several actions that can be taken to improve the overall security of the railroad’s assets. Some of these actions are already being discussed by lawmakers. We do realize the cost of implementing these changes will be economically challenging, so we suggest a plan that can include economically feasible milestones.

      Security cameras – The use of security cameras should be increased so that authorities can monitor more bridges, sections of track, and areas where trains frequently park for suspicious activity.

      Decoy cars – The use of decoy cars should be increased to make it more difficult for a terrorist to target the cars carrying hazardous materials.

      Smart assets – Add more monitoring devices to bridges, track, and cars to alert authorities of problems and suspicious activity.

      Inspections – The frequency and detail of asset inspections should be increased. More inspections will help detect when a physical asset is going to fail or find evidence that suggests a terrorist is tampering with a physical asset. Random inspections should also be increased to ensure that railroads are performing regular maintenance.

      Stronger physical assets – Outdated cars, bridges, and tracks should be updated to be able to withstand a destruction attempt. New assets should be constructed of stronger materials and have more safety features that can prevent explosions and leaks.

      Stronger IT assets – The databases need to be protected by a defined level of security. Stricter regulations will need to be enforced to ensure that only a select few individuals, at the appropriate times, are aware of schedules and manifests. IT systems should regularly be updated and inspected to maintain information security.

The Railroad Security Task Force established system for rating the current threat level to the railroad industry (Rail Security). While we feel all railroads should always make security a priority, we recommend every railroad be familiar with the current threat level in order to best protect their assets. Each railroad should have a plan in place that details increased security measures for each threat level.

      Level 1: New Normal day-to-day operations

      Level 2: Heightened Security Awareness

      Level 3: A Credible Threat of an attack on the Unites States or the railroad industry

      Level 4: A Confirmed Threat of attack against the railroad industry or actual attack in the United States (implemented up to 72 hours and reevaluated)