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Rail Security: Some Actions Taken to Enhance Passenger and Freight Rail Security, but Significant Challenges Remain

NCJ Number
Peter F. Guerrero
Date Published
March 2004
25 pages
This report presents information on the General Accounting Office’s (GAO) recent examination of challenges to transportation security on passenger and freight rail services.
The Nation’s passenger and freight rail services provide important links in the transportation system. Widespread injury, loss of life, and economic disruption are possible outcomes of terrorist attacks on passenger and freight rail services. As such, since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, key stakeholders have worked toward improving the security of the Nation’s rail system. Common challenges to securing the rail system include funding availability, the interconnectivity of the rail system, and the high number of stakeholders involved in rail security. Since rail security duties are shared by Federal, State, and local agencies, as well as private companies, there is a high potential for communication problems, duplication of efforts, and confusion. While the security of passenger and freight rails has been enhanced since September 11th, these challenges still exist. Enhanced security includes an increase in the frequency or intensity of new security measures. Two key issues emerged from the examination of security risks: the need for the adoption of a risk management approach by the Federal Government and the need for improved coordination of security efforts. Furthermore, the GAO recommended in 2003 that the Secretary of Transportation (DOT) and the Secretary of Homeland Security (DHS) draw up a memorandum of agreement that would clearly delineate their respective roles and responsibilities in terms of transportation security. According to the current report, DOT and DHS, while agreeing with the previous report’s findings, rejected the recommendation and as such, an agreement has been not implemented. The appendix includes a description of the key elements of a risk management approach.