Transportation Security Administration will begin screening Amtrak and commuter train passengers at a suburban Washington, D.C., train station next month, as part of a test program to make rail travel safer. The Baltimore Sun reports that the TSA will test new technologies in screening passengers and their carry-on bags for explosives at the New Carrollton, Md., station.
Amtrak President David L. Gunn described the nation’s busiest rail stations as being “like Swiss cheese,” echoing concerns that train stations have too many points of entry and not enough security. The TSA’s pilot program will address some of those concerns by screening passengers before they board. It is expected to start in early May and run 60 to 90 days. Officials said it would be less invasive and less time-consuming than the searches passengers endure at airports.
“This is looking for explosives, for bombs. There will be no removing of belts or shoes,” said a TSA spokeswoman. “You know how trains work – the doors aren’t open for that long. People get on and people get off. We don’t want to interfere in that process at all.”
It has not been decided whether TRIP (Transit and Rail Inspection Program) will screen by fixed machines or hand-held devices, or a mixture of the two. It’s also undetermined whether all passengers and their luggage will be screened, or only some. “There’s a need to maintain the movement of a large number of people,” said Greg Hull of the American Public Transportation Association. “That will be key to this project.”