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Amtrak beefs up security, inspections

  • Story Highlights
  • Amtrak will start new security procedures, including random checks of carry-on bags
  • Procedures will begin on Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington
  • Measures are not in response to any new or particular threat, Amtrak says
  • Trains abroad have been targeted in terrorist attacks since 9/11
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From Jeanne Meserve
CNN
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Amtrak on Tuesday announced a new security initiative that includes random screening of passengers' carry-on bags.

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Amtrak has had few visible changes to security on trains since the September 11, 2001, attacks.

Officers with automatic weapons and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolling platforms and trains also are part of the plan.

The latest measures are not in response to any new or particular threat, Amtrak said.

Unlike the airlines, Amtrak has had few visible changes to security since the September 11, 2001, attacks, but trains abroad have been targets of terrorism in recent years.

In 2004, bombings of commuter trains in Madrid, Spain, killed 191 people. A year later, a series of bombings in London, England -- most of them on subway trains -- killed 52 people.

Security experts long have pointed out the vulnerabilities associated with rail travel and the difficulty in securing trains. Video Watch how the new measures are not expected to slow down travel »

Baggage inspections will be done by mobile security teams, consisting of members of Amtrak's 350-officer police department. The teams will use screening techniques that the New York subway system developed and that have passed court scrutiny, Amtrak said.

Amtrak first plans to roll out the new teams on the Northeast Corridor between Washington and Boston, Massachusetts, its most heavily used route, before expanding throughout the country.

"Since predictable security measures can be exploited, this random screening and patrols will be unpredictable and will appear at varied times and stations," Amtrak said in a news release.

Operating more than 500 stations in 46 states, Amtrak handled 25.8 million passengers last year.

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The Transportation Security Administration, which conducts sporadic deployments of security teams called VIPRs to train stations around the country, welcomed the Amtrak initiative.

"Anytime security is enhanced, we are very supportive, and this random, unpredictable model is one we strongly endorse and practice ourselves through VIPRs and other initiatives throughout transportation systems," TSA spokesman Christopher White said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN's Brian Vitagliano contributed to this report.

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