No Security Theatre on the Railways

SNCF "Sybic" on a Basel-Brussels international working at Luxembourg

Following the foiled terrorist attack on an interational train on the border between Belgium and France, there’s a worry that opportunistic politicians will propose airport-style security theatre for rail travellers. Anyone who actually cares about rail travel must resist and oppose such proposals by every means possible.

It’s not just that such things have the potential to make rail travel as miserable an experience as air travel has become post 9/11, but they would completely ineffective when it comes to saving actual lives. All it will achieve would be to make would-be terrorists find other softer targets. We learned that lesson fighting the IRA in the 1970s.

At worst, degrading the passenger experience of rail travel would encourage a proportion of travellers to take to their cars instead, and a proportion of them would then die in additional road accidents. Even if that doesn’t happen, how about multiplying an extra 30 minutes enforced check-in time by the many millions of rail journeys a year. Just how many lifetimes’ worth of wasted time will that add up to? All for something which will achieve precisely nothing.

It goes without saying that any politician advocating such things as policy guarantees that their party will never get my vote.

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3 Responses to No Security Theatre on the Railways

  1. Phil Richards says:

    Have never quite understood the logic in security checks on Eurostar. Train passengers are given airline style checks, yet coach and private car passengers traveling through the same Channel Tunnel don’t. And whilst The Channel Tunnel could be described as high profile, it is basically just another rail tunnel.

  2. Tim Hall says:

    Same here. The lack of equivalent security for car shuttle passengers makes it rather pointless. I also had to have my bags X-rayed on the Isle of Man ferry a couple pf weeks ago.

  3. John P. says:

    It’s not even remotely feasible. Just think about the number of commuters that go through a mainline station each morning an evening – no way you could process that volume of people in any reasonable length of time. According to Wikipedia, Euston station alone saw 40.467 million entries/exits by rail in 2013-14 and a similar number by tube. In comparison, Manchester airport’s website quotes 22 million passengers per year. So it wouldn’t be 30 minute checkins, it would be 2 hours or more. Add 4 hours onto each commuters working day? Yeah, right. And that’s before we even think about the equipment and staff, or the cost of making the stations secure. Not to mention all the little stations that are unmanned would suddenly need to be secured and staffed.