Monday, March 15, 2004

Undergound Railroad
Anyone who has boarded an Amtrak train since Sept. 11, 2001, must wonder how long the delusion can last. How easy it is to waltz into a teeming station 10 minutes before departure, pull your ticket from a machine and glide onto the train without any inspection of your ID or your bags. Your shoes are of no interest to anyone. It's as if Amtrak has been exempted from modernity, and all the fuzzy charm of taking the train remains untouched by time.
What makes trains useful is what makes them devilishly hard to secure: many doors, high volumes of passengers and thousands of miles of lonely tracks. "I hear people saying it is virtually impossible to make public transport in the U.S. secure," says a former government railway official. "That's wrong. It is impossible."
What, if any, effect the terrorist attack in Madrid has on train travel in the U.S. remains to be seen. However, an attack on a train in the US would likely be the downfall of Amtrack.


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