Via Rail has beefed up security at certain key stations following an “unsubstantiated” threat received by the passenger rail service.
A spokesperson for Via confirmed that police were informed of the threat and that additional officers and sniffer dogs have been brought in to ensure the safety of employees and passengers.
“For some time now, passenger transportation companies globally have been the target of unsubstantiated threats against their facilities,” said Via Rail’s Malcolm Andrews in an emailed statement.
“Although (the recent threat) appears to be unfounded, Via Rail has advised employees and reminded them to be vigilant … In all such cases, Via’s Police Service is working closely with law enforcement.”
Andrews did not specify which stations were seeing an increase in security measures, but a report in the Journal de Montréal suggests the emailed threat specifically mentioned stations in and around Montreal.
The sender reportedly said a bomb would explode in one of those stations unless a payment in bitcoin (or virtual money) was made. Security at Montreal’s downtown station was visibly tighter on Wednesday morning.
The RCMP also confirmed to Global News that it is working with the Montreal police force on the file, and that the local force is leading the investigation.
“We will not be commenting further at this point,” the RCMP said in a statement.
Via Rail was previously the target of a planned terror attack concocted by Raed Jaser and Chiheb Esseghaier, who plotted in 2013 to derail a passenger train between Toronto and New York.
They were arrested before they could follow through. Both men were convicted last year on terrorism charges and sentenced to life in prison.
Security consultant David Hyde said that given the target of this week’s threat, it’s not surprising that police responded immediately. Just because someone is hiding behind an email or social media account does not minimize the potential danger.
“This is a bit of a new threat vector in Canada, and I think the authorities need to respond to it seriously with the kind of response that we’ve seen here,” Hyde said.
Still, he added, it’s unlikely that Canadians will see the same type of screening to board trains as they go through to board an aircraft anytime soon.
Anyone considering making this type of threat should understand it comes with the very real possibility of extensive jail time, Hyde noted, and it’s not difficult for security agencies to track the suspect down.
“Making a threat against a critical infrastructure network like transit in Canada is an extremely serious offence, it crosses over into anti-terrorism law.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, all passenger rail service was running on schedule. Andrews said no delays were anticipated as a result of the threat or the increased security.
With files from Vassy Kapelos.