Amtrak Remains Vulnerable to Terrorism

Critical Vulnerabilities Remain in the Nation's Passenger Rail System

Concern is growing over Amtrak's vulnerability to terrorism and the safety risks to passengers, according to a new report by the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the Inspector General.

Since 2005, the DHS Transit Security Grant Program has provided more than $1 billion in grant funding to Amtrak and passenger rail transit agencies to protect critical transportation infrastructure, including Amtrak rail stations. 

However, according to DHS, officials did not ensure that Amtrak directed grant funds to some of Amtrak's most vulnerable rail stations.  "As a result, some rail stations and the traveling public may be at a greater risk to a potential terrorist attack," according to the report.

"We visited four high-risk rail stations and observed that Amtrak did not take actions to mitigate some of the more critical vulnerabilities..identified as early as 2006," the OIG said.  "For example, at one station, we observed that a terrorist could access..."  That's where the text goes black, as the specifics are redacted.

In Los Angeles, Union Station is home to Amtrak, the Metrolink trains as well as three subway lines.   L-A Sheriff's Commander, Pat Jordan, says the biggest threat to passengers is a bomber or gunman, "The most likely one is a small improvised explosive device, or an active shooter type situation.  If you look across the country, those are the challenges we face".

Commander Jordan says more closed circuit tv cameras are coming but in the meantime they need everyone's help, "If you look at a lot of the attempts to attack the tranist systems and other attacks around the country, they've been really interdicted by people who saw something and said

OIG has essentially told Amtrak to make improvements, and rail officials indicate they'll do so.

"Since 2004, bombings of the Madrid and Mumbai rail systems and the London subway have demonstrated the critical need to protect rail infrastructure from terrorist attacks," the report says. 

"Passenger rail stations are especially attractive to terrorist targets because of the large number of people in a concentrated area. 

The largest of America's rail stations are inter-model transportation terminals with high passenger and cargo volumes.  A terrorist attack at these facilities could lead to significant loss of life and economic disruption."

Amtrak services 46 states and the District of Columbia.  It operates more than 500 stations and transports about 27 million passengers every year, using infrastructure including tunnels, bridges, and major rail stations, the OIG said.

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