Rail security questioned after alleged terror plot foiled
Published Tuesday, April 23, 2013 11:25PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, April 23, 2013 11:29PM EDT
Government officials are calling for increased rail security after an alleged plot to attack a passenger train was foiled by the RCMP.
But experts question the feasibility of securing rail lines and warn that increased security comes with increased costs.
The Ontario government said on Tuesday that it wanted to speak with the federal government about increasing security on trains after two men were charged in connection with the alleged plot to attack a passenger train travelling on tracks linking New York and Toronto.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said the government has an obligation to keep people safe.
"Obviously we have to, as government, do everything we can to make sure that we keep people safe and that we get the information as early as possible,” she said.
Ontario Attorney General John Gerretsen said it may be time to revisit rail security, as current security measures tend to focus on air travel.
“Greater attention has always been paid more to airport security and I know that the comment is often made, should we have the same kind of security mechanisms in other transportation methods as well, such as trains,” he said.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety Candice Bergen said that transportation security is constantly being reviewed. Going forward, the government is “looking at these things and making sure the right processes are in place.”
But any new attempts to ramp up rail security would be a massive undertaking.
VIA Rail alone operates 497 trains a week over 12, 000 kilometres of track. The company moves nearly four million passengers a year on its trains.
Currently, passengers travelling by train aren’t subject to the types of security checks that air travellers face. And in countries where there have been attacks on trains, only minor changes have taken place.
John Thompson, vice president of intelligence with the Strategic Capital Intelligence Group, said that after the 2004 bomb attack on trains in Madrid, garbage cans were removed from stations and platforms.
“You cannot have solid waste bins on a train platform or a subway platform anymore,” he said.
“We can’t go around protecting everything,” he added. “We just can’t.”
David Jeanes, president of transportation advocacy group ‘Transport Action,’ warned that increasing rail security will result in a significant increase in costs.
“It gets expensive when you have to put in place bomb sniffers, higher quality X-ray, the ability to actually do body scans that can detect non-metallic weapons,” he said.
Raed Jaser, 35, and Chiheb Esseghaier, 30, were arrested and charged Monday in an alleged train attack plot. The RCMP said the plot was under the "direction and guidance" of al Qaeda members in Iran.
While the accused had the capacity to carry out an attack, the RCMP said there was no "imminent threat" to the public.
With a report from CTV News’ Scott Laurie and files from The Canadian Press