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Chairman Ted Stevens
Hearing and Passenger and Freight Rail Security
October 20, 2005
I WELCOME THE WITNESSES WHO ARE HERE TODAY AND I THANK YOU FOR YOUR WILLINGNESS TO APPEAR BEFORE THE COMMITTEE TO DISCUSS THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION’S RAIL SYSTEM, A MATTER THAT IS ESSENTIAL TO THE PRESERVATION OF INTERSTATE COMMERCE AND THE U.S. ECONOMY. IN MY STATE OF ALASKA, FREIGHT AND PASSENGER RAIL LINES ARE A VITAL MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION FOR RESOURCES, AS WELL AS TOURISM. THE ALASKA RAILROAD CORPORATION HAULS 7 MILLION TONS OF FREIGHT AND 500,000 PASSENGERS EACH YEAR, AND EMPLOYS MORE THAN 700 ALASKANS.
TODAY’S HEARING IS ONE IN A SERIES OF HEARINGS THAT THE COMMITTEE WILL HOLD TO FULFILL ITS OVERSIGHT RESPONSIBILITIES OVER THE TRANSPORTATION SECURITY ADMINISTRATION AS WE WORK TO DEVELOP WAYS TO FURTHER IMPROVE THE SECURITY OF ALL MODES OF TRANSPORTATION, INCLUDING OUR RAIL SYSTEMS.
HOWEVER, IN SECURING ANY MODE OF TRANSPORTATION, WE MUST ACHIEVE A BALANCE IN OUR APPROACH THAT ENSURES THE GREATEST SECURITY POSSIBLE WHILE NOT INHIBITING THE FREE FLOW OF COMMERCE. SENATOR INOUYE AND I, ALONG WITH SEVERAL OF OUR COMMITTEE COLLEAGUES, HAVE ATTEMPTED TO ACHIEVE THAT BALANCE IN LEGISLATION THAT WE INTRODUCED THAT ADDRESSES THE SECURITY OF ALL MODES, INCLUDING THE SECURITY OF OUR RAIL SYSTEMS.
MUCH HAS BEEN DONE SINCE SEPTEMBER 11TH TO ENHANCE THE SECURITY OF OUR NATION’S RAIL SYSTEMS, PARTICULARLY BY THE FREIGHT AND PASSENGER RAIL INDUSTRIES, WHICH HAVE INVESTED SUBSTANTIALLY TO ENSURE THE SECURITY OF THEIR INFRASTRUCTURE AND ASSETS. BUT THE LONDON BOMBINGS AND THE RECENT THREATS TO THE NEW YORK CITY SUBWAY SYSTEM UNDERSCORE THE FACT THAT MUCH MORE REMAINS TO BE DONE.
DESPITE TSA BEING DESIGNATED THE LEAD AGENCY WITH AUTHORITY OVER RAIL SECURITY NEARLY FOUR YEARS AGO, THE AGENCY HAS BEEN CRITICIZED BY THE GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE AND THE RAIL INDUSTRY FOR NOT SEEKING INDUSTRY INPUT IN POLICY DECISIONS, AND FOR NOT ACTING QUICKLY ENOUGH TO ASSESS RISK AND ALLOCATE RESOURCES. GAO RECENTLY REPORTED THAT TSA HAS YET TO FINALIZE RISK ASSESSMENTS OF PASSENGER RAIL SYSTEMS AROUND THE COUNTRY, OR SET A TIME-LINE FOR THE COMPLETION OF SUCH ASSESSMENTS. GAO INDICATED THAT THERE REMAINS CONFUSION AMONG STAKEHOLDERS CONCERNING WHO IS ACTUALLY IN CHARGE GIVEN THAT SEVERAL FEDERAL AGENCIES HAVE INITIATIVES TO IMPROVE RAIL SECURITY.
I WELCOME MR. HAWLEY’S TESTIMONY ON THESE TOPICS, AND I LOOK FORWARD TO A CONSTRUCTIVE DIALOGUE CONCERNING WAYS TO ENHANCE RAIL SECURITY.
PANEL I -- ROUND I
Chairman Stevens: We sought to assure that we would have jurisdiction over TSA, rail security and other aspects in this Committee because of the existence of the authorities that Mr. Boardman has just mentioned concerning FRA and existing systems prior to the reorganizations that brought about TSA. But it appears that we are still going along two roads. You talk about coordination, but what about consolidation? It seems to me that this is going to be extremely confusing to everybody in the railroad industry if we don’t find one way to deal with this. Now, the solution of the 9-11 Commission was to just wipe you out Mr. Boardman as far as security is concerned and our solution was to try and bring it together so that we’d have a comprehensive system for improving rail security but not have duplicated functions that require coordination. Now, how are we going to get it together? And Mr. Hawley, not withstanding to what Ms. Berrick said – I thought that was kind of complimentary that you are trying to work on risk assessment but have we accomplished anything yet? When can we expect that risk assessment and when can we expect a plan to put together the system so that there’s one coherent system for safety on our railroads?
Secretary Hawley: Yes, sir. On the risk management approach, we use that today. I think what we are referring to there, there are specific major models that are very complex that are useful but are not really the operational drivers in terms of a flexible risk and a flexible network. So we use absolutely the risk-based approach on a daily basis on operational matters as well as we devote our investment resources.
Chairman Stevens: If you are doing that everyday what’s Mr. Boardman doing. He says they’re in charge.
Secretary Hawley: Well, Mr. Boardman is in charge of safety and we have a very good working relationship that I think, that the report that Ms. Berrick referred to is highly instructive, highly useful, and as I was preparing for my confirmation before this Committee had the opportunity to review it and the comments there about single point of contact, being connected one voice from the federal government to the industry or the transit community is one that we whole-heartedly adopt. And, in fact, Secretary Chertoff recently approved a reorganization of the entire agency to enable us to speak with one voice to these communities.
Chairman Stevens: What agency? Your agency?
Secretary Hawley: Yes, sir, TSA. And to plug into FRA on a daily basis and build institutional connections among us so it doesn’t depend on a good relationship among administrators, but the actual work process of the two agencies take advantage, certainly from our point of view of the expertise that the FRA has and expect that the good working relationship that we’ve had to this point will continue to evolve to be even better coordinated and reflected in the work process.
Chairman Stevens: Mr. Boardman, what do you say?
Mr. Boardman: I think that, Mr. Chairman, I do think FRA and TSA, especially since Mr. Hawley has come on board, has been able to work in a very hand-in-glove fashion, especially with their inspectors out in the field today. I think there is a difference between safety and security in a couple of ways. Safety in terms of thinking about it, it’s really being certain that adverse effects will not be caused by some agent under defined conditions. In other words, when the FRA puts its standards and its activity together there are some risks, and terrorism against the passenger train are beyond the conditions that FRA really considered when it set those standards in the past. One of the difficulties, I think, with security has been that it’s not only being free from danger and injury, it’s also being free from anxiety and fear. And, I think that there is a need for us to work together as a federal government to find a way to find those conditions, those adverse effects that we can’t establish in terms of a process or effective conditions that, as I think Mr. Hawley talked about, that keeps terrorists off balance in terms of how we look at this thing for the future. I think that we have an important role in the FRA in security because we benefit security because we don’t differentiate what that agent is that causes a catastrophic event. It could be a broken rail from a joint fracture, it could be vandals, it could be something more sinister, but there are those risks that are beyond that and we want to work with DHS to resolve that.
PANEL I -- ROUND II
Chairman Stevens: Airline transportation has been funded as far as security concepts are concerned primarily by increased taxes on passengers. I have not seen any recommendation from anyone that the people who use rail transportation should pay a portion of the cost of providing their own security. Have you examined this? Any one of you examine why it is that we can’t ask the rail passenger to pay as the airline passenger pays for at least part of the security we are trying to provide?
Secretary Hawley: It’s done. That’s where the money comes out of the local level and part of the fare box goes to programs from the local level that affect security.
Chairman Stevens: Have you recommended any increase in cost to the passengers for rail security?
Secretary Hawley: No, sir.
Chairman Stevens: Have you Mr. Boardman?
Mr. Boardman: No, Mr. Chairman. I wouldn’t recommend that.
Chairman Stevens: Why?
Mr. Boardman: Most transit systems in operations today don’t cover their operating costs. Most of them in rural areas cover as much as maybe 30 or 40 percent of their costs. When you’re in New York City itself, you might be as high as 70 percent of its costs. So today….
Chairman Stevens: That’s looking at it the wrong way. Do you know what gasoline costs today pre-9/11?
Mr. Boardman: Yes, sir.
Chairman Stevens: The people who are driving cars, the people who are flying are all paying increased costs. Why is it that railroad passengers are such preferred characters that they can’t pay a portion of these costs? Everyone seems to be turning to the federal government for the total support of the security system for rail.
Mr. Boardman: I understand sir.
Chairman Stevens: Why?
Mr. Boardman: I think that all transit systems today receive federal assistance and they do that because they lose money.
Chairman Stevens: Well, almost every airline in the country is in bankruptcy now and has been since 9-11 because of the increased costs put on airlines themselves in addition to the increased cost to the passengers. But, we haven’t seen any increased burden put on the passengers for rail transportation. Ms. Berrick, have you looked at that?
Ms. Berrick: Well, we did look at who pays for rail security and found that it is really shared between the federal government, state and locals who own a lot of the transit and then also the private sector. The American public…
Chairman Stevens: Wait, back up. The allocation to them is still based upon pre-9/11 fares, isn’t it? Have you seen any increased in the cost of rail transportation?
Ms. Berrick: We didn’t look at the actual fares and the increases over time.
Chairman Stevens: Why not?
Ms. Berrick: The objective of our study was to see what was being done first of all within the U.S. to secure passenger rail and whether or not there were any practices in foreign countries that could apply here to secure the rail system. We also looked in a general sense of what’s been spent on rail security on the federal level – not a whole lot of money last year, about $150 million in grants. The American Public Transportation Association estimated that since 9/11 the private sector, the private rail operators, spent about $1.7 billion on security. So I think the rail operators themselves through fees are devoting a lot to security.
Chairman Stevens: It seems like just a simple matter of economics to me that with the increase in price of gasoline people who would otherwise drive from here to New York are going to go by train. Right? There’s not been any increase cost to go by train. So you have to plan for increased burdens on the rail transportation system because the increased cost of alternative means of transportation – both air and auto or bus – has increased substantially. Rail has not. And yet we are hearing we have to have more money to protect those people who are riding the rails.
Ms. Berrick: I think what the highest priority should be, in my opinion, for the Department is to complete their risk assessment efforts. It’s right, TSA has started these efforts. They haven’t yet completed them. The Department level, they also have risk assessments. They need to be coordinated to determine, first of all, what’s the requirement…
Chairman Stevens: I would accept your concept of risk assessment. I think we all do. That should be the number one priority. But, the question of who’s going to pay for the changes that are necessary, ought to be primary too, shouldn’t it?
Ms. Berrick: I think it should and I think the first step is the risk assessment to determine how much do we actually need and where we need to focus our money?
Chairman Stevens: Well, meanwhile you are just attracting more and more people to the rail transportation system, aren’t you? If airline costs are going up the transportation by bus or by automobile is going up, isn’t natural that people are going to go where prices are not going up?
Ms. Berrick: That’s possible and we did not study the pricing?
Chairman Stevens: Would you study that just to see if I’m right?
Ms. Berrick: Okay, we’ll look at that and get back with you. Thank you.
Chairman Stevens: I would also like to know, if you can tell us – I admire the way that New York City handled the crisis after the London catastrophe in the rails. They really started a system of really improving inspection for anyone who went on board their subways or their trains. But, I also understand there was an increased allocation to pay for that service. And, I wonder why. You know, I come from a state where 90 percent of the travel is by plane, and our people are paying, though we are a very small state, our people pay a substantial increase in costs every month it seems. The people that are using these massive transportation systems down here, they’re not paying any of the increased costs for security of all and I think that’s not only unfair, but it’s not wise. It means that unless, as Senator McCain says, we find more money to allocate to these systems they’re not going to get the security that’s required to maintain the security that is necessary for that mode of transportation.
PANEL II – ROUND I
Chairman Stevens: There are amendments on the floor right now that affect my State and I am anxious to get this hearing over, obviously. But, Mr. Hamberger, you’ve alluded to some confusion as to whose in charge, TSA or FRA, who do you think is in charge and who should be in charge?
Mr. Hamberger: I believe that TSA should be in charge of security, that FRA is in charge of safety. The two overlap. And, as you heard on the first panel, a tank car could be a safety issue, it could be a security issue. So, I think there needs to be better coordination. I think Secretary Hawley and Mr. Boardman have undertaken that and have had a series of meetings. Within the Department of Homeland Security itself, however, there is still, and I think Mr. Hawley alluded to it this morning, there needs to be a single point of contact for the industry. We hear from the Information Analysis and Infrastructure Protection Group, from the Coast Guard, from TSA, from different organizations within DHS coming to our members and asking for oftentimes overlapping requests for data and so there just needs to be a single point of contact and we’ve met with Secretary Hawley on that and I think he is moving in that direction.
Chairman Stevens: Mr. Crosbie, I’m sure we’re going to hear more about the needs of Amtrak, but has the Board explored increasing the cost to the passengers instead of totally requesting additional federal money to meet the improvements you’ve mentioned?
Mr. Crosbie: As I understand it, it was before my time at Amtrak, it was considered post-9-11 and there was a significant push back from some of the state governments on adding a security fee.
Chairman Stevens: Well, I remember right after 9-11 going to Nome and finding the TSA in the terminal there at the small airport. They had taken over a third of the terminal, which has been paid for by the state and the city. They were charging passengers more money to provide security. Why is it that rail transportation has not been willing to step up to the plate and ask the passengers to pay part of the security and safety costs?
Mr. Crosbie: We, within Amtrak, we’ve certainly considered doing that and in the past when we had proposed, like I had said, there was a significant resistance to implementing that. We haven’t ruled it out entirely, but based on the past response, we haven’t considered it further.
Chairman Stevens: Am I right that your number of passengers has increased since 9-11.
Mr. Crosbie: Yes.
Chairman Stevens: Substantially?
Mr. Crosbie: Sorry, sir.
Chairman Stevens: There’s been a substantial increase.
Mr. Crosbie: Substantial, yes, it has been.
Chairman Stevens: Mr. Wytkind, I appreciate your comments about Senator Inouye’s and my involvement in this bill and I understand what you’re saying about training. One of the problems is, I think, when I think of some of the airline unions, they’ve been very much involved in training themselves. Why haven’t you?
Mr. Wytkind: Well, actually they have been and that’s actually a good example of the problem. In the hazardous materials area, the rail unions have had a very robust hazmat training program that actually receives some federal support. But, any opportunities we’ve tried to approach, well, when we tried to approach the railroads to participate in that program and perhaps even help us finance it so that it has the support it needs, we’ve met a lot of resistance. And, any attempts we’ve ever made to strengthen training for workers or to have them covered by certain safety regulations, we’ve met always resistance from the railroads. Anytime safety reauthorization legislation has been pending in this Committee, we’ve met resistance from the railroads. So, my message to you is, I think the rail unions have a strong track record of delivering training to their members under very limited resources. I would submit to you, that given the shear size of the workforce in the country and the amount of responsibility that they bring every day to work, to the job, that they need the support to make sure they’re prepared. When I hear local union reps tell me things like our members don’t feel any more prepared today than they did four years ago, before 9-11, that brings chills down my spine and I’m sure to a lot of other people.
Chairman Stevens: I don’t know if you know, but I probably carried a union card than anyone in the room. But, as a practical matter, I understand that when your people are laid off they automatically continue to receive full pay. There’s a real question about the retirement and lay off costs of labor in terms of these railroads, particularly Amtrak. What do you say about that?
Mr. Wytkind: I don’t think those issues are applicable to security.
Chairman Stevens: It takes money away from the system.
Mr. Wytkind: Well, the Congress has affirmed and reaffirmed its very strong support for the railroad retirement system that the rail employees are covered by, including the railroads themselves that have always supported it. So, the costs on the system for retirement, to me, are unrelated to whether we should be training workers at the rank and file level.
Chairman Stevens: Thank you very much.
Chairman Stevens’ Closing Statement
And, I think Amtrak is vulnerable now because of the failure to find some way to increase revenues, I really do. Mr. Hamberger, I hate to tell you, but after the big Valdez disaster, I was the one that went to London came back said that the only answer was to double-hull those tankers and people didn’t like us at all. You better listen to these guys. Someone ought to test whether double hulls on these tank cars will provide additional security because I think right now the attitude in Congress would be to mandate that all of those cars carrying chemicals be double sided. And, the only thing that is going to deter that would be sufficient proof that it wouldn’t make any difference. If that won’t make a difference then I would urge you to go and look and see what we’re doing in Iraq by some of the changes that are classified as a matter of fact to the tank cars that are carrying fuel or the trucks that are carrying ammunition. They have new facilities, new ways to improve the safety for those people driving those by virtue of changes that have been made in country to those tank and those trucks. And, I think Congress right now would be in the mood to say that is a risk that should not be, that the cities of the country should not be exposed to that risk if it really exists.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Joseph H. BoardmanAdministrator and Secretary's Representive to the Amtrak BoardFederal Railroad Administration
Witness Panel 2
Mr. Edward WytkindPresidentTransportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO
Mr. William CrosbieSenior Vice President, OperationsAmtrak