I feel safer already. The Department of Homeland Security, through its Transportation Security Administration (TSA), has finally gotten around to promulgating new regulations strengthening security on passenger and freight railroads. The new regulations were to go into effect December 26, 2008, but the railroads successfully petitioned for a delay until April 1, 2009. The regs can be found at 49 CFR 1580. For the final report and full text, click here.

Suffice to say, every passenger and freight railroad now must have a Rail Security Coordinator who is available 24/7 to coordinate intelligence and security with the Transportation Security Administration and law enforcement agencies.

And every railroad now is required to "immediately report potential threats and significant security concerns to the Department of Homeland Security Freedom Center at 703-563-3240 or 1-877-456-8722."

Potential threats or significant security concerns are defined to include:

–interference with train crews;

–bomb threats;

–suspicious items that disrupt railroad operations;

–suspicious activity around rail cars or rail facilities;

–discovery of a firearm or other deadly weapon on a train, station, terminal, facility, storage yard, or other location used in the opeation of the railroad;

–indications of tampering with rail cars;

–possible surveillance of a train, facility, storage yard, or other location used in the operation of the railroad;

–threatening correspondence received by the railroad.

The reality is, the TSA has to rely on the eyes and the ears of railroad employees and passengers. So the slogan "If you see something, say something" now has to be changed to "If you see something, call the Freedom Center at 703-563-3240 or 1-877-456-8722." Not as catchy, but hopefully more efficient.

Also, special chain of custody and control requirements apply to freight railroad operations in High Threat Urban Areas (HTUA). HTUAs are listed in an Appendix to the regulations, and include areas around Boston, Jersey City/Newark, New York City, and Philadelphia. The railroad must physically inspect cars carrying "rail security-sensitive materials," keep them in a "rail secure area," and document the transfer of custody in writing or electronically.