US train passengers could soon face ‘airport-level’ security measures

(REUTERS) - Amtrak is stepping up security measures on trains after an attack on a high-speed rail in France was foiled on Aug 21, and ahead of Pope Francis' visit to the United States next month.

According to CBS News, Amtrak has a 500-officer police force, as well as New York Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) police and aTransportation Security Administration (TSA) program to assist with security on the Northeast Corridor.

But many small train stations have little security, which means anyone could potentially run right up to a train and get on it without being stopped or asked questions.

The most sensitive target at the moment seems to be the Northeast Corridor between New York and Washington, which will see an increase in ridership during the Pope’s visit next month.

Homeland Security already deploys what are called VIPR teams along the Northeast Corridor, which include agents in uniform and bomb-sniffing dogs, as well as agents out of uniform who blend in with passengers to detect any suspicious activity.

Unlike at US airports, mandatory full-body scans have not been introduced, but the VIPR program, which has a budget of more than US$100 million (S$140 million), is expanding.

In a statement published on its website, Amtrak said that "passengers failing to consent to security procedures will be denied access to trains."

Amtrak aimed at introducing such security measures at train stations already five years ago, but high costs and the complexity of the project prevented Amtrak from investing in it.