Railway security in Europe
[French Railways Security In Question After Thalys Attack, Andrea Rothman and Helene Fouquet, Bloomberg, 24 Aug 2015]
[…] While the French rail operator will increase random luggage checks on board trains, it is unthinkable to introduce the kind of security measures routinely applied to air travel, Transport Minister Alain Vidalies told Europe 1 radio Monday. That’s partly because of the greater numbers of people riding trains, and partly because of the nature of train travel, he said.
Trains are a soft target. Thousands of trains a day go to stations in cities where there aren’t even ticket offices or barriers. […]
The Eurostar connecting London to the European continent is the only train that has airport-style security. Because Britain is not part of the so-called Schengen group of countries including France and Belgium that have relaxed border controls, passengers traveling to or from London must arrive early, pass immigration officials, and be subject to searches while their luggage is screened.
According to a 26 August Daily Mail report, British rail passengers could face airport-style security before boarding trains under EU plans being considered after last week’s attack in France.
[Train users may face airport-style security: X-ray machines for high-speed services and ‘rail marshals’ could be introduced in wake of attack in France, John Stevens, Daily Mail, 26 Aug 2015]
[…] Surveillance cameras could be mandatory and X-ray machines introduced for high-speed services, along with the possibility of armed ‘rail marshals’.
The options are being discussed by officials in Brussels as they look at the possibility of drawing up EU-wide rules on railway security for the first time after an attack on a train between Brussels and Paris was foiled on Friday.
[…] An EU source said the measures under discussion would cover international routes as well as domestic high-speed trains, describing France’s TGV network as a ‘sexy target, far more attractive than commuter rail’.
Eurostar may be the ‘most secure’ train service in western Europe, but that is not saying much. For years, anyone could get on a Eurostar in Brussels without a passport or ticket and travel to England without challenge, bringing anything they liked onto the train. Britain’s HS1 is road patrolled by two-person teams in pickup-type vehicles, but their effectiveness must be considered dubious (and the cost of patrolling the wider rail network in the same way would be enormous).
More than a decade ago, following terrorist incidents, self-service luggage lockers were taken out of use and waste bins replaced by cardboard trays at SNCF stations, but as can be seen from the recent incursions into the facilities at Calais, security is variable.
The French authorities have also extended the (armed) police presence at certain stations at certain times, but how much of that is security, rather than security_theatre, is open to question. Do such measures reassure, or unnerve, or do they raise the question of how France — and other western European countries — came to be like this?