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Strategic Plan

The federal government is responsible for the overall regulation of railroads.  It prevents state and local governments from regulating the railroads so that there is uniformity in the system nationwide.  The state and local governments often are not aware of what the railroads are transporting.  In recent years, there has been some improvement in the information sharing that occurs between the railroads and the different levels of government.  Officials are working on legislation that will require railroads to increase the amount of information they share and set guidelines on with whom the information can be shared.

Local communities are passing laws setting restrictions on what can be transported on nearby railways.  Washington, D.C. is now attempting to require permits for railroads wishing to transport “ultrahazardous materials” on railways in or near the city (Wald).  CSX is challenging the ordinance because it considers the changes it will have to make burdensome.  Other communities have gone to the extreme and are blocking hazardous materials altogether.  Railroads affected by those restrictions are challenging them because of the burden of rerouting trains and handing off business to other railroads.  They also note that rerouting the trains only moves the risk to another community.

The railroads are in possession of the databases containing all of the information about hazardous material shipments.  It is up to the railroads to reveal information to the state and local agencies concerning the transportation of hazardous materials.  The problem with this practice is that local agencies are unaware of what hazardous materials are being transported through their communities.  The lack of information does not help them to effectively prepare for an emergency response in the event of a railway disaster.  Emergency personnel responding to an incident would need to locate manifest information on the train or contact the railroad which is a waste of time in a crisis situation.  In 2005, railroad companies agreed to alert local agencies with a list of the top 25 hazardous materials that are transported through their communities, but only if the local agencies request the information (Bruggers).  This is a start, but local agencies are demanding the full list and more information, while the railroads argue that releasing any further information would help a terrorist who gains knowledge of it.

The following is a list of the various items we would like to implement in our plan, as well as a brief summary of how each will be effective.

Privatization of Railroads

The first major security step we would like to implement is the privatization of railroad tracks. The majority of railroads in the U.S. are currently publicly owned, and therefore do not have the adequate monitoring necessary for them to be as secure as they should be. Privatizing the railroads would allow for each respective company to deal with their specific railroads in terms of upkeep and frequent security checks. It would also be reasonable to provide some type of financial incentive from the government to meet strict security standards for privatized railroads.

Stricter Employee Monitoring and Training

Employees working for railroads will need to go through an FBI screening process to ensure that they are not a risk to the security of the railroad. Also, employees need to be better trained in detecting possible security risks. Their training should include various types of threat detection and also knowledge of how to minimize risks of possible hazardous materials disasters.

Monitoring of Critical Components

All railway critical components need to be monitored for possible vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities could be something as simple as a loss in railroad track integrity due to weather; however, they could also be much more malicious such as purposefully blown up bridges or tunnels. Monitors need to be put in place to ensure the integrity of all railways a train will be using on its way to its destination. These integrity checks could be made either by humans in person, or by using computer monitoring systems such as cameras.

These railroad switches and railroad signals are not very well protected.  Live monitoring of components such as these can help reduce the risk of a disaster in the event that they are tampered with or go offline.

Information Sharing 

In the case of a derailment, local agencies need to know what type of materials they will be dealing with so that they can better protect themselves from the risks of hazardous materials. A system for sharing information about the various types of freight a train is carrying needs to be put in place to alert local agencies of possible risks. Shipments meeting a designated risk level would require that local agencies along the route be given advanced notice to prepare for an emergency response. The system would need to be secure from outside detection and not provide the information earlier than would be necessary for emergency response situations. This would ensure that if the data were intercepted by an outside source, that source would not have enough time to develop a plan to attack the shipment.


A nationwide communications network for employees, security personnel, or local agencies needs to be established for immediate response to risk. With such a communications system in place, anyone affiliated with the railroad that detects something suspicious could immediately alert all other railroad personnel. This would allow the railroad operators and local agencies to know exactly what is going on at all times. With up the minute information, possible corrective actions will be much easier to make in the event of a security risk.

Increased Cyber Security

A high level of cyber security needs to be put on all railway databases that contain sensitive information. This includes train schedules, shipment types, and various routes a train may take. These items need to have very high levels of security to prevent possible data intrusions and compromises in data integrity. These items should be put on a need to know basis, and be viewable only by those whose jobs are immediately effected by them (note: this does include local agencies of areas where hazardous materials may be passing through, as stated above.). Also, all communications between railways should be encrypted to ensure their integrity.


Information used for our security plan was based off of some of the information presented in the AAR’s Railway Security Plan. A link to that information can be found here: