Expect 'Enhanced' Security on Railroads over Labor Day Weekend, Homeland Security Secretary Says

The move comes just weeks after the thwarted attack in Europe.

ByErin Dooley
September 03, 2015, 6:22 PM
PHOTO: Amtrak Train 111 arrives at Union Station May 18, 2015 in Washington.
Amtrak Train 111 arrives at Union Station May 18, 2015 in Washington.
Getty Images

— -- Just weeks after several Americans thwarted an attack on a high-speed train in Europe, Homeland Security Sec. Jeh Johnson said today he had “great confidence in the safety of rail travel” in the United States –- and promised a boost in TSA’s rail presence over Labor Day weekend.

“Obviously when you have a situation where you have heroes among civilians, that is homeland security of the last resort,” he told reporters at Washington DC’s Union Station, referencing the foiled Paris attack. “We here want to and need to be involved first.”

As part of “Operation Rail Safe,” Johnson promised, travelers will see an “enhanced security presence” over the holiday -– including more canine explosive detection sweeps, random bag checks, and VIPR squad patrols.

The VIPRS -- a team of behavior detection offers, explosive experts, and air marshals -- were created partly in response to a series of high-profile foreign train attacks in the early 2000s.

TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger acknowledged that rail’s open atmosphere and multiple access points make it a “complex” security environment.

But Johnson reassured the public: “We're always adapting, we're always evolving, we're always learning from experiences” to “stay one step ahead of the next attempt or attack.”

In fact, Johnson, the descendant of a Pullman porter, said he planned to ride the Acela home to New Jersey following the event.

In the meantime, he reminded travelers, "the public can participate in homeland security -- that's what 'if you see something, say something' is all about."

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