Top public officials meet for summit on rail security

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BOSTON >> With Boston deemed one of the most at-risk cities in the country and federal grant money on the table, officials convened at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston on Monday to discuss ways to thwart terrorism on surface transportation, such as railways.

"Attacks and tactics that have been used by terrorists in Europe and parts of Asia have usually migrated here at a later date," Congressman Stephen Lynch, D-South Boston, told reporters before the summit. He said, "We cannot eliminate every danger."

Lynch said air security receives the majority of the funding from the Transportation Security Administration, and said improvements could be made in training railroad workers in evacuation procedures and ensuring a system of security cameras is adequate.

"We can respond much more effectively than just wringing our hands in the face of some of those dangers," Lynch said. He said there are "substantial" competitive federal grants available.

Unlike airways, where boarding is generally tightly controlled by a phalanx of security officials, railway boardings are spread out at stations that do not include metal detectors or other mainstays of airport security.

"The point is not to neglect what will be a soft target in an era where around the world this is more of an issue than it is in the U.S.," said Congressman Bill Keating, D-Bourne. Keating said unlike TSA's air security measures, most of the security on rail is contracted out.

Keating said Boston has the "gold standard for safety" and is one of the top-10 at-risk cities in the country.

The meeting attendees included Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito along with Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and James O'Brien, president of the Boston Carmen's Union. Nametags in the conference room indicated representatives would be present from the TSA, the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well as consultants, including Guy Glodis, the former sheriff of Worcester County.

"There's quite an impressive roster of folks that are going to be here today," said Walsh.

Lynch said that training for evacuation from tunnels was heightened following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York City's World Trade Center, and those measures need new emphasis.

"We haven't really renewed that effort," Lynch said.

Boston's transit system includes subways, trolleys, buses, dedicated bus tunnels, commuter rail trains and Amtrak trains running along rail that is sometimes shared with freight. Officials regularly ask the system's users to share information if they see potentially suspicious activity.

The MBTA has an emergency training center in South Boston in former street car tunnels next to Broadway station on the Red Line.


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