TFA was fortunate to be included in a conference call concerning the new computer aided tracking system. This was the first time the system was presented live to non security/CSX personnel It is significant from the rail passenger perspective in that, including Amtrak and commuter runs, CSX operates 215 passenger trains every day and 20 million passengers every year.
You are probably aware that there are 5 Class 1 railroads and that CSX operates 21,000 miles through most of the eastern U. S. and passes through 31 DHS designated “high threat areas” Skip Elliott is in charge of security for the railroad and made the interactive presentation in which I was able to see the SecureNOW system running on my office computer screen.Elliott is able to point out the Amtrak trains by current location on the map and by name.
This is an important breakthrough in safety and security for several reasons. The “live” maps allow personnel to view trains by category: passenger, freight, and freight trains carrying potentially dangerous cargoes (alert trains). Hazardous materials fall into three categories: chemicals, explosives, and spent nuclear fuel. Very little of the latter is handled.
The computer interface allows a train to be located in a “static” geographic context. That is, in relation to buildings, parks, roads and highways. This kind of specific information can be very helpful for emergency responders. The application for a passenger train in some remote location would be obvious.
We know that freight trains have computer generated manifests and that cars handling hazardous materials must bear certain markings and information. SecureNOW takes the train manifest to the next level. It presents the train order in the form of on-screen icons. Click the icon (which tells about the origination, destination, cargo, and empty/loaded status) and you willl learn EVERYTHING about the car.
All the above mentioned data can be put into a format for Blackberry or email. This means that a procedure which might have taken 30 minutes (not too bad actually) can put crucial safety information in local firefighters and rescue crews almost instantly.That’s the purpose of this substantial investment.
TSA has this system and so does New Jersey Transit has the SecureNOW systen, and the State of New Jersey Department of Homeland Security has access to the system and, if needed, they would share the information with New Jersey Transit. CSX is in discussions with several states to share the information and has a relationship with security authorities in the District of Columbia.
So you may be wondering about the other four Clas 1 roads. Will they run SecueNOW? Based on what I heard today, I can conclusively say that I have no idea. It is a substantial investment in a down economy. Railroads will need to provide more information on shipments and TSA will probably want to use a single platform.
And government always does the logical thing, right?
But seriously, CSX gives TSA high makrs for not sharing sensative corporate data with enforcement agencies.
The SecureNOW system is bound to very helpful to local authorities coping with a crisis.