High-speed rail security addressed in new report

Posted on May 1, 2013

A new report, released by the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) addresses high-speed rail (HSR) security by providing analysis of information relating to attacks.

Principal investigator Brian Michael Jenkins and his team offer an analysis of information relating to attacks, attempted attacks and plots against HSR systems. The report is available for free download at http://transweb.sjsu.edu/project/1026.html.

The research report,"Formulating a Strategy for Securing High-Speed Rail in the United States," draws upon empirical data from MTI's proprietary database of terrorist and serious criminal attacks against public surface transportation and from reviews of selected HSR systems, including onsite observations.

It also examines the history of safety accidents and other HSR incidents that resulted in fatalities, injuries, or extensive asset damage to examine the inherent vulnerabilities and strengths of HSR systems and how these might affect the consequences of terrorist attacks.

"We divided this study into three parts," said Jenkins. "First, we examined security principles and measurements. Then, we conducted an empirical examination of 33 attacks against HSR targets, plus a comparison of attacks against HSR targets with those against non-HSR targets. And finally, we examined 73 safety incidents on 12 HSR systems. The purpose of this study is to develop an overall strategy for HSR security and to identify measures that could be applied to HSR systems currently under development in the United States."

MTI expects that the report will provide useful guidance to governmental authorities and to operators of current and future HSR systems. It was co-authored by Chris Kozub, Bruce R. Butterworth, Renee Haider and Jean-Francois Clair.

HSR has seen comparatively few attacks
While terrorist attacks aimed at trains and buses have increased over the past several decades, very few attacks have targeted HSR. To gain possible insights into the consequences of successful terrorist attacks against this travel mode, Jenkins said, this inquiry includes accidents and other HSR incidents that have resulted in injuries, fatalities or extensive asset damage.

"The objective of the research is not to dictate security regimes," he said. "Rather, it is to distill lessons from the history of accidents and terrorist attacks; to review security measures at existing HSR systems; to explore security-regime options; and to suggest principles for an overall security strategy."

The report notes that now is the right time to initiate a discussion, as new HSR systems are being designed and built. This report is intended to inform that discussion by addressing several questions, including:

  • Does HSR merit more security or different security measures than other passenger rail?
  • Is it appropriate to consider reducing security for non-HSR passenger rail?
  • What threats drive security concerns?
  • What can be learned from HSR security in Europe and Japan?

The report includes 15 figures, including several route maps specific to the incidents, and 11 tables, including HSR attacks by country, HSR bomb attacks by outcome, HSR incidents involving fatalities and more.

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