Amtrak chief: Trains more vulnerable than planes

Amtrak President Joseph Boardman says he wants to step up security patrols of the passenger rail network and explore new technologies to provide advance warning of track tampering following revelations that al Qaida considered attacking U.S. trains.

Boardman told a Senate panel Tuesday that the agency has expanded its use of explosive-sniffing dogs and is in close contact with U.S. and international security agencies.

He said promising ultrasonic and laser technologies may enable detection of track problems far ahead of trains. But he cautioned that trains are more vulnerable to attack than planes because terrorists have more ability to access trains and track.

He said more patrols of tracks are needed to identify specific points of vulnerability.

The tighter security is evident at major train hubs like D.C.’s Union Station. "When we came in, there was an officer with a dog," said Mary Nur, an Amtrak passenger.

"The handwriting has been on the wall,” D.C. congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) said, referring to past attacks like the bombings of trains in Madrid.

Frequent Amtrak rider Bill Howe is surprised Congress hasn't already changed the way we ride the rails. "I'd rather be cautious,” he said. “Preclude that kind of disaster"

With reporting from the Associated Press and ABC7's John Gonzalez.