Michelle Mcloughlin (Str)  /  AP
Asa Hutchinson, left, Undersecretary for Border and Transportation Security, and Stephen Korta, center, Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner, tour a rail car equipped with technology to screen baggage for explosives on Thursday in New Haven, Conn.
updated 7/15/2004 8:39:40 PM ET 2004-07-16T00:39:40

Connecticut rail commuters will get their baggage checked for explosives after leaving the station in the federal government’s latest test of train security systems.

Beginning Monday, Transportation Security Administration agents aboard a commuter train line will run passengers’ bags through an X-ray and explosive-detecting device and scan their tickets for explosive residue. The checks will take place in a rail car entirely dedicated to detecting explosives, weapons and bomb-making material.

Conducting the on-board checks will allow authorities to avoid security lines at train stations, which are vulnerable to terrorist attacks, Asa Hutchinson, undersecretary for border and transportation security, said Thursday.

“We recognize the unique challenges presented by the rail environment and are conducting this pilot to identify the best methods to increase security,” Hutchinson said.

The monthlong test is the last of three studies exploring options for rail security, which became a higher priority after the March 11 terrorist attacks in Spain that killed nearly 200 people.

An earlier study in Maryland tested bags for explosive devices before passengers boarded trains, and a Washington, D.C., study scanned cargo and baggage loaded into trains.

Impact on passengers to be reviewed
Security experts will evaluate the performance and risks of each option. They will also assess how passengers respond to the security options, and whether the screening unduly delayed rail travel.

Hutchinson said the government does not plan to require such security measures on trains nationwide. Different rail lines may require different levels of security, and security systems could be quickly deployed in times of heightened security, he said.

The TSA said the test will cost about $500,000. It is being conducted on Shore Line East Commuter Rail trains, which carry about 1,200 passengers a day.

Monique Johnson said security was on her mind as she traveled from Maryland to New Haven to visit family.

“I was thinking as we were going through the tunnels, they could blow us up right now,” Johnson said. “It’s a good idea to have some kind of security.”

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