- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2001

Amtrak will no longer sell tickets on board trains to passengers traveling between Washington and Boston beginning Monday.

Instead, passengers must buy their tickets before boarding and have their photo identification cross-checked with an FBI "watch list" of terrorists and fugitives.

The new policy of requiring ticket purchases before boarding applies only to the Northeast Corridor's main line. All connecting routes and all other trains across the United States are exempt. However, the other passengers still must show photo identification.

"Without going into detail, it was a security issue," said Amtrak spokesman Bill Schulz.

The Northeast Corridor is Amtrak's most profitable and heavily traveled route in its nationwide passenger rail system. It also would be the primary beneficiary if Amtrak receives the $3.2 billion in supplemental security funds it requested of Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and in New York.

An average 40,000 passengers ride Amtrak's Northeast Corridor trains each day.

At a hearing on the request Tuesday, members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee focused primarily on the risk of a bomb to Amtrak's passengers, trains or tunnels.

"The thing I'm concerned about after listening to you is the baggage checks," Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Texas Republican, said to Adm. James Underwood, director of the Transportation Department's Office of Intelligence and Security.

The senators discussed the possibility of terrorists boarding a train with a bomb.

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, Amtrak has reserved the right to have its police open and search baggage but conducts the searches only when baggage is "suspicious." It also uses bomb-sniffing dogs on baggage that passengers check in at the ticket counters.

"It strikes me that railroads are far more vulnerable than airlines," said Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV, West Virginia Democrat. "Why would one not check baggage going onto a train when one checks baggage going onto a plane?"

Mr. Schulz said after the hearing that the greatest risk for Amtrak would be a threat to its trains, stations and tunnels, such as from a bomb.

He said Amtrak does not plan to change its criteria for searching baggage, only increase the number of police available to do them.

"Only a small percentage of the carry-on baggage is searched," Mr. Schulz said. "It will depend on what Amtrak police believe is warranted based on a case-by-case basis."

The pre-boarding ticket purchase policy is intended to stop the people most likely to cause the damage.

"It will enable us to know before a train leaves a station who's on board," Mr. Schulz said.

Since Sept. 11, Amtrak's ridership has increased 25 percent on the high-speed Acela Express trains that run along the Northeast Corridor. Nationwide, ridership on long- distance trains is up 12 percent.

At the Senate hearing, George Warrington, Amtrak's chief executive officer, said he expects the fear of flying incited by the attacks to create a "sustained increase in demand" for passengers to ride the railroad.

About half the requested $3.2 billion supplemental funding would be used to increase Amtrak's capacity to handle the additional passengers, such as new trains and improvement to tracks, he said. About $531 million would be used for security, such as hiring and training more police officers or installing remote cameras and more lighting. Another $1 billion would be used to fortify tunnels in the Washington, Baltimore and New York areas against fires.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide