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U.S. rail security gets more attention after Madrid bombing

U.S. rail security gets more attention after Madrid bombing

   The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has asked rail operators and transit agencies to be on a heightened state of alert following the train bombing in Madrid earlier this month, DHS Secretary Tom Ridge said at a press conference last week.

   Ridge outlined several steps the agency is taking to improve rail security, including cross-training K-9 dog teams to search for explosives in tunnels when there is a potential threat, developing a set of best practice security measures and implementing a pilot program to test the feasibility of screening luggage and carry-on bags at rail stations and on trains. Ridge said the government couldn't copy the aviation security model because rail operations differ so much from air travel.

   Many of the suggestions pertain to passenger travel, but since freight railroads often share track with passenger rails, any disruption caused by a terrorist attack would likely affect rail shipments too.

   The Senate also held hearings last week to determine what has been done since Sept. 11, 2001 to improve rail security.