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Old December 14th, 2009, 02:26 AM   #1
andrelot
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MISC | Railway Security

I've been thinking about this issue for sometime. Airports have greatly increased security checks, procedures and safeguards in aftermath of 9/11. Yet, little was done to improve security in rail lines and vehicles, especially High Speed and long-distance services.

For sure, trains have different security vulnerabilities than planes. They cannot be turned into flying bombs, and they can be (HS, atb equipped) brought to a safe halt remotely, while planes have no such capabilities. To speak so, an armed train hijack has less "potential" than an aricraft one.

Nonetheless, I think trains are lagging behind adequate and necessary security measures worldwide. I see almost no X-ray screening, no reinforced cabine doors but a I DO SEE free acess to platforms and even trainsets to anyone willing to walk from the street all the way to the cars etc.

So, I have three questions:

(1) In your contry, do long distance and/or high-speed rail passenger services have any security check system for passengers boarding trains? How does it work? Am I the only one who feel very unsafe while riding a high speed trains and thinking that anyone could have boarded it with a gun, knife, sword, C4, TNT, whatever, without being even noticed, questioned, let alone scanned, by no police officer?

(2) Should diesel passenger trains be banned for posing a terrorism risk far higher than electric trains (they can explode and wreak havoc, while electric trains cannot, and as a last resort power can be cut off rail lines, while a diesel train is more or less phisically "autonomous").

(3) Isn't it a good idea to scan all lugage and passenger and make sure that extremely sharp items, arms and other dangerous stuff is, at least, locked away from passenger compartment or forbidden altogether?
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Old December 14th, 2009, 05:02 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andrelot View Post
I've been thinking about this issue for sometime. Airports have greatly increased security checks, procedures and safeguards in aftermath of 9/11. Yet, little was done to improve security in rail lines and vehicles, especially High Speed and long-distance services.

For sure, trains have different security vulnerabilities than planes. They cannot be turned into flying bombs, and they can be (HS, atb equipped) brought to a safe halt remotely, while planes have no such capabilities. To speak so, an armed train hijack has less "potential" than an aricraft one.

Nonetheless, I think trains are lagging behind adequate and necessary security measures worldwide. I see almost no X-ray screening, no reinforced cabine doors but a I DO SEE free acess to platforms and even trainsets to anyone willing to walk from the street all the way to the cars etc.

So, I have three questions:

(1) In your contry, do long distance and/or high-speed rail passenger services have any security check system for passengers boarding trains? How does it work? Am I the only one who feel very unsafe while riding a high speed trains and thinking that anyone could have boarded it with a gun, knife, sword, C4, TNT, whatever, without being even noticed, questioned, let alone scanned, by no police officer?

(2) Should diesel passenger trains be banned for posing a terrorism risk far higher than electric trains (they can explode and wreak havoc, while electric trains cannot, and as a last resort power can be cut off rail lines, while a diesel train is more or less phisically "autonomous").
Diesel fuel has a very high 'flash' point - you can drop a lit match into a dish of diesel fuel . . . and the match will go out when it hits the fuel as though it were dropped into water. Also, there are systems available now that will allow for train dispatchers to override engineers'/drivers' control of their trains.

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Originally Posted by andrelot View Post
(3) Isn't it a good idea to scan all lugage and passenger and make sure that extremely sharp items, arms and other dangerous stuff is, at least, locked away from passenger compartment or forbidden altogether?
You do have to remember that many train stations are in very small and remote locations (thus being prohibitive to set up airport-style access and security controls at them all) and that it is pretty much impossible to patrol every meter of track along rail lines. And trying to set up such controls would eliminate a MAJOR competitive advantage that rail has against the airlines. It is one of the risks that we all take with life (thinking of the damage that can be wrought if a major freeway interchange would be taken out, for example).

My biggest worries on trains are - suicide bombers, crazed gunmen (both relatively minor worries) and especially track sabotage.

Mike
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Old December 14th, 2009, 06:53 AM   #3
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I've ridden the CRH from Guangzhou to Shenzhen. I recall I did go through an X-ray check. However, the biggest risk I see is rail sabotage. It doesn't take too much to derail a train by placing foreign objects on tracks. We also saw the possibility of planting bombs on tracks and the effects given Russia's recent tragedy. How to police kilometres of open track is another big question.
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Old December 14th, 2009, 11:30 AM   #4
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Perhaps it's just me, but I can't really remember airport security going up much after 9/11. Some extra fingerprint/identity checks and some computers that can "read" your passport to speed up boarding but that's about it. I suppose the situation in the US is different, but if anything checking in has become faster than before. As it should be, of course. 100 Percent security doesn't exist, it's about time that more people accepted that.
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Old December 14th, 2009, 12:10 PM   #5
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Rail bombing would me more difficult to cope with. As for foreing objects, small laser sensors could be put along rail tracks, at least on High Speed Rail. From my understanding, the impact of a crash with, say, an animal or a car is much more cathastrophic when it comes to a 300 kph train than for a 120 kph one.

As for security, at least high-speed rail doesn't use small remote stations. Thereby, it would be good to completeley segregate passenger movement in stations from gerenal light rail/urban rail/non-HSR in stations: no one could jump on a HSR train without being scanned first.

It would set back some advantages of HSR (like fast connections with "old" and "normal" rail services), and put an extra 15-20 minutes to every journey, but greatly increase security.
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Old December 14th, 2009, 12:48 PM   #6
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HSR lines should already be fenced off completely - "there's a foreign object on the track 1km ahead" isn't going to help much if you're moving at 300 km/h. They still won't help against rail bombing of course, but neither would gimmicky laser thingies.
The problem with your "solutions" is basically that they do help against the threats that aren't real, but don't help against the threats that are - none of these would have prevented the Atocha rail bombings for example. They would just inconvenience a lot of people in order to create a false sense of security.
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Old December 14th, 2009, 02:00 PM   #7
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Its kind of pointless to hijack an electric train as the power supply can be switched off...
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Old December 14th, 2009, 05:52 PM   #8
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They could still threaten to kill passengers etc.
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Old December 14th, 2009, 06:27 PM   #9
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Yeah, but they can still do that in an office building too. Or in a restaurant, a bar, a house... Does that mean we have to restrict access to those as well?
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Old December 14th, 2009, 06:59 PM   #10
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You've got a point there.

Out of curiosity, how much damage would occur if a blast happens in one of the carriages? Of course, there's no pressure differential like in high-altitude flying airplanes, but is a blast survivable for a high-speed cruising train?
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Old December 15th, 2009, 10:22 AM   #11
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Neva express,just a week ago?
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Old January 13th, 2012, 02:41 AM   #12
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Old January 13th, 2012, 03:11 PM   #13
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Taiwan High Speed Rail puts barbed wire fences around every single kilometer of track that is laid on the ground. I met a security personnel who pointed out that in areas where cars can potentially enter the track zone (i.e. bridges, embankments), the fences are fitted with motion detector wires that will automatically turn the rail signals red should they be disturbed.

Still, I'm concerned that lobbing a grenade over isn't technically hard. Or, the worst case scenario I can think of is detonating a bomb while sitting in the front of the train... right when another train is passing... 300 km/h + 300 km/h = 600 km/h collision speed. Ouch.

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Old January 13th, 2012, 03:46 PM   #14
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HSR makes for poor terrorist targets- I believe Carlos the Jackal bombed a TGV many years ago but caused relatively little damage, and one or two fatalities. Much more tempting are subways and commuter rail- incidents have occurred with deadly results in London, Madrid, Moscow, and Tokyo. However, due to the nature of passenger flows and volumes, airline style security checks are impractical. The best countermeasure is vigilance, much as Europe has done for decades. Instituting increased and intrusive security merely hands victory to the terrorists.
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Old January 13th, 2012, 03:59 PM   #15
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HSR makes for poor terrorist targets- I believe Carlos the Jackal bombed a TGV many years ago but caused relatively little damage, and one or two fatalities.
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Indeed. A bit of material damage and a train that had to perform an emergency stop.
But a few years ago "rumors" of track side bombs were enough to shut down the French TGV network. Terrorism is an activity with high rewards for small investments. Because we are doing the terrorists' work....
Much more tempting are subways and commuter rail- incidents have occurred with deadly results in London, Madrid, Moscow, and Tokyo. However, due to the nature of passenger flows and volumes, airline style security checks are impractical. The best countermeasure is vigilance, much as Europe has done for decades. Instituting increased and intrusive security merely hands victory to the terrorists.
The security checks currently imposed on airline passengers are mostly pointless. They are "security theatre", meant to give impart a sense of safety.
There too vigilance is the best countermeasure, as has been shown in the shoe bomber (and underwear bomber) incidents.

The main reason why airline passengers are checked is that a) it is possible and b) politicians need to be able to "do something".
The whole terrorism threat is overblown anyway. The best answer to the terrorists is to refuse to be terrorized.
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Old January 13th, 2012, 05:19 PM   #16
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The main reason why airline passengers are checked is that a) it is possible and b) politicians need to be able to "do something".
The whole terrorism threat is overblown anyway. The best answer to the terrorists is to refuse to be terrorized.
YEs, like accepting people will die of intentional attacks every other year in Europe is part of life, like Madrid or London were Islamabad or Baghdad.

Barbed wire seems a nice solution to avoid people overstepping the fences.

I also wait for next-gen explosive detectors that can be fit in all transit stations.
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Old January 13th, 2012, 06:22 PM   #17
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YEs, like accepting people will die of intentional attacks every other year in Europe is part of life, like Madrid or London were Islamabad or Baghdad.
Well if you fear things like that, you should never come to a station with your
car anymore. The odds that you get killed in a car accident are orders of
magnitude higher than in a terrorist attack while on the train and in the
station. And I never understood why people dying in road accidents are
in any way more socially acceptable than victims of terrorist attacks.
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Old January 13th, 2012, 06:38 PM   #18
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I don't think there are any security checks on passenger rail in the US, on the other hand we got slow trains and huge steel carriages so the puny explosives any potential terrorists can bring will not cause a catastrophic event.
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Old January 13th, 2012, 09:55 PM   #19
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If not, then what should each of us make of Amtrak obligating all its passengers to procure genuine, valid, photographic identification?
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Old January 13th, 2012, 10:27 PM   #20
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To require ID is good because it also steers off criminals, fugitives and illegal immigrants fearing apprehension from using public transport. The less mobile these people are (driving a car is already risky), the better.

As for terrorism death rates: I know they are rather slim, but it is its vicarious nature that make it good for much more spending to avoid and fight.
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