Amtrak gets serious about security

John Dimsdale Feb 19, 2008
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Amtrak gets serious about security

John Dimsdale Feb 19, 2008
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Kai Ryssdal: You can think back to today when your kids ask you where you were when oil closed above $100 for the first time. Crude spiked 4.7% today to about four and a half bucks, to close at $100.01 a barrel. A refinery fire in Texas and worries about OPEC production got the speculators going. Maybe it’s enough to make you start driving less and taking the train more. If so be prepared for a very airport-like experience. No metal detectors or anything, but plenty of other things.

From Washington, John Dimsdale reports.


John Dimsdale: Starting this week, Amtrak will send out roving security teams to randomly screen carry-on luggage by swabbing bags for explosives before people board. On the trains, passengers might see dogs with armed guards. Amtrak spokesman Cliff Black says the process is designed to be as smooth as possible:

Cliff Black: You don’t have to get to the station earlier. You don’t have to worry about having a nail file on you or anything like that. Or liquids. Nothing has changed as to what’s permitted and what’s not for riding our trains.

Black says Amtrak’s security plan is designed to keep its hassle-free advantage over air travel. That’s one reason Amtrak’s share of passenger traffic in the busy northeast corridor has grown since 2001.

Black: In fact, we are so sensitive about the need to keep the system fluid and flowing, that if it appears as if this is going to cause a train to be delayed, we’ll simply stop the process and let the train load without screening any further passengers, sending the train on its way.

Black says the random baggage screening will be a deterrent for would-be bombers.

Passengers like Jerry Morris at Washington’s Union Station today seemed to like Amtrak’s new security:

Jerry Morris: I have become accustomed, like most Europeans to the new approach to traveling. This is part of it on the airplane and now it’s going to be part of it on the train and I welcome it and encourage it.

Amtrak’s baggage screening begins in the northeast corridor and eventually will spread to the entire system.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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