How safe is NC train travel? - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

WNCN Investigates

How safe is NC train travel?

Posted: Updated:
Amtrak and the North Carolina Department of Transportation run trains along more than 3,000 miles of track across the state. Amtrak and the North Carolina Department of Transportation run trains along more than 3,000 miles of track across the state.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

For the last two years, North Carolina trains have led the nation in both revenue and ridership growth. Nearly a million passengers go through the state each year, as well as millions of dollars in goods.

Amtrak and the North Carolina Department of Transportation run these trains along more than 3,000 miles of track across the state.

"We'd like to think of our stations as economic sparkplugs," said Allan Paul, who oversees the railways for the NCDOT. In addition to economic benefits for towns with stations, Paul said train travel has its advantages for passengers.

"First of all, it's relaxing," Paul said. "We like to think it's a lot less hassle."

And riders agree.

WNCN rode along on a day trip provided by the NCDOT from Raleigh to Charlotte and back. Along the way, passengers Mark Pinckney from Greensboro and Melissa Good from Durham agreed that the train provided a "stress-free" ride.

Paula Andrinopoulos, who was traveling from Raleigh to visit her parents, went further saying train travel is "less expensive than flying and a little bit more convenient."

But is travelling by train as safe as flying?

In recent years, security experts have warned that terrorists have shifted focus from the air to the ground. So far, attacks have been overseas; but last April, the FBI and Canadian authorities stopped a suspected terror plot targeting passenger trains heading to the United States.

Law enforcement sources also say authorities are now keeping a closer eye on a growing threat of rail sabotage across the country.

Since the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the hassle to get on a plane has grown, but the process to get on a train hasn't become quite as stringent.

"You don't have to go through metal detectors," said Graham resident Maiya Reaves, who was riding the train to Charlotte.

Dave Skergan, who was on a day trip to Charlotte from Raleigh, added, "Just walk on [and] grab a seat."

Passenger Will Newman, from High Point, said he even arrived at the station just 10 minutes before the train pulled away, and that he didn't have a problem boarding.

The state's rail safety consultant, Nelson High, is quick to point out that railways also present a unique security challenge.

"You cannot fence it," High said. "And you cannot provide the same security that other entities would do because you can't do that."

To ensure train safety, High said the NCDOT allows law enforcement as well as Rapid Response Teams from other security agencies to train on the equipment for possible attacks.

"They come in with their equipment and their expertise and know how to mitigate these incidents and bring them under control quickly," High explained.

And the NCDOT's Allan Paul said they take other precautions.

"There is a traveling metal detector. We do spot-checking," Paul said. "We also take drug-sniffing and bomb-sniffing dogs onboard the trains."

When asked if those measures were enough, Paul said, "Our record speaks from itself, and that's nationwide."

The numbers back Paul's claim up. In recent decades, one person in the entire United States has died from an extremist rail attack.

Paul said so far, North Carolina has been very fortunate. However, he added that all it would take is "one or two events that were significant" that might require additional security measures.

Most casualties involving trains in North Carolina actually come from people illegally crossing the tracks. You can learn more about the NCDOT's BeRailSafe program designed to fight this problem here.

RELATED LINKS

Sean Maroney

Sean returns home to North Carolina after spending seven years reporting around the world and across the United States. More>>

  • North Carolina NewsMore>>

  • NC GOP Senate candidates face off as early voting begins

    NC GOP Senate candidates face off as early voting begins

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 11:15 PM EDT2014-04-24 03:15:49 GMT
    The four top-polling Republican Senate candidates, vying to unseat Democrat Kay Hagan, debated on Wednesday night in Raleigh, the night before early voting was set to begin. The primary is May 6, but voters can start heading to the polls on Thursday.During the half hour televised debate, State House of Representatives Speaker Thom Tillis of Charlotte said he was leading a conservative revolution in Raleigh, cutting regulations and taking credit for falling unemployment numbers. Tillis faces c...
    The four top-polling Republican Senate candidates, vying to unseat Democrat Kay Hagan, debated on Wednesday night in Raleigh, the night before early voting was set to begin. The primary is May 6, but voters can start heading to the polls on Thursday.During the half hour televised debate, State House of Representatives Speaker Thom Tillis of Charlotte said he was leading a conservative revolution in Raleigh, cutting regulations and taking credit for falling unemployment numbers. Tillis faces c...
  • NC judge to rule against teacher tenure state law

    NC judge to rule against teacher tenure state law

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 7:18 PM EDT2014-04-23 23:18:26 GMT
    A Guilford County judge is backing two school districts fighting a North Carolina law that phases out job protections for public school teachers in favor of employment contracts.
    A Guilford County judge is backing two school districts fighting a North Carolina law that phases out job protections for public school teachers in favor of employment contracts.
  • Committee proposes rules for drone use in NC

    Committee proposes rules for drone use in NC

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 4:58 PM EDT2014-04-23 20:58:27 GMT
    A legislative committee approved a set of regulations that it hopes will calm people's fears about the use of drones while allowing the industry to flourish.
    A legislative committee approved a set of regulations that it hopes will calm people's fears about the use of drones while allowing the industry to flourish.
  • Fire at Saw Mill in Bedford County is under investigation

    Fire at Saw Mill in Bedford County is under investigation

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 9:55 PM EDT2014-04-24 01:55:50 GMT
    A fire ata saw mill in Bedford County is under investigation. It happened thisafternoon around 5 at Central Virginia Pallet and Stake on Centerville Road.Bedford County's Fire Chief says there were no injuries, but the owner estimates the damages at about $75,000The chief says thefire is still burning, and it will likely burn for a few days, but it is contained.The cause of the fire is unknown, butit's believed to be accidental.
    A fire ata saw mill in Bedford County is under investigation. It happened thisafternoon around 5 at Central Virginia Pallet and Stake on Centerville Road.Bedford County's Fire Chief says there were no injuries, but the owner estimates the damages at about $75,000The chief says thefire is still burning, and it will likely burn for a few days, but it is contained.The cause of the fire is unknown, butit's believed to be accidental.
  • 29 Virginia High Schools on Personal Finance Top-100 List

    29 Virginia High Schools on Personal Finance Top-100 List

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 9:32 PM EDT2014-04-23 01:32:06 GMT
    29 schools in the Commonwealth, including many in our area, ranked the the nation's top 100 best high schools for personal finance instruction.
    29 schools in the Commonwealth, including many in our area, ranked the the nation's top 100 best high schools for personal finance instruction.
  • Franklin Co. Sheriff's Office investigating juvenile death

    Franklin Co. Sheriff's Office investigating juvenile death

    Franklin Co. Sheriff's Office investigating juvenile death

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 10:50 AM EDT2014-04-22 14:50:58 GMT
    Deputies were called to Double Oaks Lane in the Burnt Chimney community, where they found a seven-year-old boy with a gunshot wound.
    Deputies were called to Double Oaks Lane in the Burnt Chimney community, where they found a seven-year-old boy with a gunshot wound.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Mom bites off dog's ear to save daughter during attack

    Tuesday, April 22 2014 2:49 PM EDT2014-04-22 18:49:19 GMT
    Image from CNN/KHOU-TVImage from CNN/KHOU-TV
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
    In a backyard in Alvin, swings a very lucky girl. Her name is Mackenzi Plass, or Kenzi for short, and she survived a dog attack and has undergone several surgeries."She'll be two and a half in May," said her very proud mother Chelsi Camp. "She's doing great. You wouldn't know it if you couldn't see."Mackenzi has scars on her face after the ordeal just weeks ago that put her mother's animal instincts to the test."You do whatever you can," said Camp. "I don't have physical strength at my side."...
  • Mom wins lawsuit against TSA after breast milk screening problems

    Mom wins lawsuit against TSA after breast milk screening problems

    Wednesday, April 23 2014 4:40 PM EDT2014-04-23 20:40:54 GMT
    A Southern California woman who was held at a Phoenix airport four years ago after refusing to have her breast milk X-rayed has reached a settlement with the Transportation Security Administration. Stacey
    A Southern California woman who was held at a Phoenix airport four years ago after refusing to have her breast milk X-rayed has reached a settlement with the Transportation Security Administration. Stacey
  • Owner of Raleigh 'Party Mansion' guilty of tax evasion

    Owner of Raleigh 'Party Mansion' guilty of tax evasion

    Monday, April 14 2014 4:07 PM EDT2014-04-14 20:07:04 GMT
    Claude Verbal II, who now lives in Miami, pleads guilty to a number of federal tax evasion charges.
    Claude Verbal II, who now lives in Miami, pleads guilty to a number of federal tax evasion charges.
Powered by WorldNow

WSLS 10, P.O. Box 10
Roanoke, VA 24022-0010

Telephone: 540.981.9110
Fax: 540.343.3157
Email: news@wsls.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.