U.S. Issues Anti-Terror Regulations for Rail Systems
By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 21, 2004; Page B01
The Department of Homeland Security issued its first anti-terror directive for the nation's commuter rail and subway systems yesterday, calling for wide-ranging precautions including checks of unattended bags, bombproof trash receptacles and the use of explosive-sniffing dogs.
Local rail operators, including Metro, MARC and Virginia Railway Express, said they believe they are already substantially in compliance with the rules, though they could not be sure.
The regulations are to go into effect on Sunday, but operators said they had not been issued copies of the requirements. Some in the industry questioned whether the transit systems have enough money to fully comply.
"Millions of Americans travel by rail every day, and recent world events highlight the need to ensure they are kept safe from acts of terror," said Asa Hutchinson, the Department of Homeland Security's undersecretary for border and transportation security. "These protective measures, along with others already in place, advance our mission to ensure rail passengers are protected."
Asked how rail operators could come into compliance by Sunday if they had not yet been given a copy of the regulations, Hutchinson said regulators would "provide flexibility when necessary."
Lisa Farbstein, a Metro spokeswoman, said, "We will do what we can to get up to speed as quickly as possible in the event that we aren't already in compliance"
Fears for the nation's rail systems rose after Sept. 11, 2001, and again after the Madrid train bombings in March.
The announcement of new rules prompted pleas for more money from rail operators, who say that although airlines have received billions in direct assistance for anti-terror measures, the country's railway systems have been given relatively little.
"We simply don't have the additional funding to address some of these issues," said Greg Hull, director of operations safety and security for the American Public Transportation Association. "We are fully committed to ensuring security. But as these unfunded mandates are put upon the industry, it certainly raises the question of what happens when systems are unable to come into compliance."
He said that although rail operators have received two federal grants for $115 million, aviation interests have garnered $11 billion.
In response to the financial questions, Hutchinson noted that state and local governments, which subsidize rail operations, have received billions in homeland security funding.
Moreover, he said that the train regulations, which are less than 10 pages in length, are largely a collection of best practices.
"The transit authorities are largely in compliance," he said. "As we continue to monitor these measures . . . we're certainly willing to make sure that this is in the line of priorities for funding."
Exactly what the new regulations call for was unknown yesterday, so estimating the cost of compliance is impossible, rail operators said.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Asa Hutchinson, a Homeland Security official, wants to "ensure rail passengers are protected."
_____More on Preparedness_____
Embattled Fire Chief Changes Jobs in Annapolis (The Washington Post, May 20, 2004)
At the Nervous Center of Homeland Security (The Washington Post, May 18, 2004)
A Crash Course in Readiness (The Washington Post, May 13, 2004)
Charles To Get Security Funding (The Washington Post, May 13, 2004)
Explosives Detector Tested at Md. Station (The Washington Post, May 5, 2004)
More Preparedness Stories
_____Metrorail Special Report_____
Metro Vote on Cars Gives Red Line a Lift While Others Wait (The Washington Post, May 21, 2004)
'01 Slaying of Metro Officer Goes to Jury (The Washington Post, May 20, 2004)
Howard Crime Watch (The Washington Post, May 20, 2004)
Washington Post Will Buy Spanish-Language Newspaper (The Washington Post, May 18, 2004)
Standing on the Left? You Must Be on Vacation (The Washington Post, May 17, 2004)
More Metrorail News