Amtrak Will Screen Passengers' Bags
Amtrak will start randomly screening passengers' carry-on bags this week in a new security push that includes officers with automatic weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolling platforms and trains.
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The initiative, to be announced by the railroad on Tuesday, is a significant shift for Amtrak. Unlike the airlines, it has had relatively little visible increase in security since the 2001 terrorist attacks, a distinction that has enabled it to attract passengers eager to avoid airport hassles.
Amtrak officials insist their new procedures won't hold up the flow of passengers.
"On-time performance is a key element of Amtrak service. We are fully mindful of that. This is not about train delays," Bill Rooney, the railroad's vice president for security strategy and special operations, told The Associated Press.
Nor will the moves require passengers to arrive at stations far in advance, officials said. Passengers who are selected randomly for the screening will be delayed no more than a couple of minutes, Amtrak chief executive Alex Kummant said.
"We're very conscious of the fact that you're in an environment where commuters have minutes to go from train to train," he said.
Concern about Amtrak security has been mounting since the 2004 bombings of commuter trains in Madrid that killed 191 people. Trains also have been bombed in London, where 52 people were killed in a series of blasts in 2005, most of them on subway trains, and in Mumbai, India, where 200 people were killed in 2006 on commuter trains. Russia also has had several bombings on subway, commuter and long-distance trains.