Last Monday’s bomb blast in a subway in St. Petersburg, Russia, resulted in the deaths of 11 people. ABC News reports, another 45 civilians were sent to the hospital, due to what “Russia’s Investigative Committee call[s] an ‘undetermined explosive device.’”
This recent terrorist attack and others in the past involving railway systems begs the question: how safe is traveling on the tracks?
Anyone who’s traveled on a rail system will know that unlike in airports, passengers don’t go through a security checkpoint before boarding a train or subway. Although terrorism carried out on rail systems is rare and unlikely, given the events that have occurred in the past, lack of security for this transport has proven deadly. With this, terrorists have an easier time bringing potential harmful weapons onto a popular public transportation source.
USA TODAY reporter, Susan Miller reminded readers of that subway rails have been the target of attacks before. Ten terrorist attacks from 1995 to 2016 targeted trains and subway systems. Miller mentions the fatal 2005 event that took place in London where terrorists detonated bombs on three subways and a bus. This resulted in the deaths of 52 people and another 800 were injured.
Also mentioned in her article is the recent 2016 incident where a metro station in Brussels was targeted by an ISIS suicide bomber. 16 civilians were killed. That same day, a separate attack at the Brussels airport killed 16 more people. Both attacks resulted in hundreds of being hospitalized due to injuries.
Those determined to cause terror on railway systems in the past years have used other weapons besides explosive devices.
A suspected ISIS sympathizer traveling on a train to France in 2015 brought on board a Kalashnikov assault weapon along with nine magazines of ammunition, a Luger automatic pistol and a box cutter, as reported by CNN. Luckily the suspect was stopped after, “…three men – a member of the Air Force, an inactive National Guard member and a civilian – responded quickly, possibly preventing a deadly attack on the high-speed Thalys train,” says CNN.
Some safety measures exist to protect passenger using trains. AMTRAK, The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, provides train service in the contiguous United States. To keep their passengers as safe as possible, the Amtrak Police Department has, “…more than 500 sworn and civilian personnel at more than 30 locations in 46 states conduct a range of behind-the-scenes and front line security measures to ensure Amtrak employee, passenger, and infrastructure safety and security.”
For subways, as the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority states, “Safety Department officials are constantly in the field inspecting stations, buses, subways, commuter rails and boats to ensure the safest possible environment.”
Even with security officials on watch for suspicious activity, train and subway stations always encourage passengers to stay vigilant and take some responsibility in protecting themselves in others.
Although not as advanced, there are limited safety measures to protect those using railway systems for travel. Railways are still more vulnerable to terrorist plots, as they lack security checkpoints.