Unattended Trains A Potential Threat To Spokane Area

By:  Jeff Humphrey
Source: KXLY.com

SPOKANE, Wash. -

An unattended train left alone near Spokane has the attention of the Transportation Security Administration.

It's just one of several trains KOMO TV found left running and without a crew throughout the state.

With their camera rolling, the TV crew was able to hop on board and remain in the lead locomotive unchallenged by train security.

The KOMO news team also found a train sitting in the dark thirty miles north of Spokane running with the key left in the cab of the locomotive.

The security concerns are obvious. Anyone, be it a transient or terrorist could throttle up a locomotive and take a train on hazardous materials joy ride.

Only Wednesday, the head of the TSA wasn't laughing when U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., grilled him about the problem.

"Obviously our focus is on security from the standpoint of is what's on that train considered a toxic inhalation hazard," TSA Director John Pistole said. "Is it something that could be used as a weapon?"

Pistole told the senator railroads are doing a better job of not leaving cars containing things like chlorine gas unattended. But because more than 60 trains pass through Spokane every day, a stolen train no matter what the cargo poses a threat to the community.

"So we will work with the FRA, (Federal Railroad Administration) to make sure those situations do not repeat," Pistole said.

"But you do think it's a problem?" Cantwell asked.

"I think it's an issue that needs to be addressed from both from the safety and security perspective. Yes," Pistole concluded.

Burlington Northern Sante Fe officials did not want to comment on what the TSA director said during Wednesday's hearing.

But a BNSF spokesman did says the railroad has and will continue to work with regulatory agencies to assure the safety and security of their rail network.