Oh, what fresh hell is this? The Home Office is looking at ways to introduce security screening to the tube and rail stations. A briefing note to potential suppliers says it’s looking to screen for explosives and weapons (and possibly chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear material) across the underground and national rail network. But they’re also very clear that screening mustn’t delay passengers “any more than they are currently as they pass through the station”.
“Any more than they are currently”? The Home Office isn’t wedded to an idea of where screening should happen – could be at escalators or ticket barriers, but they’re happy to listen to other brilliant ideas. We know that sometimes, during rush hour, there’s a mini queue of people swiping their Oyster cards, but we can’t imagine how they’re also going to fit a security sweep in there without slowing everyone down. The review does call for consideration of new and futuristic technology, so perhaps we’re just jaded by our experiences at airports. (Though we assume new technology will be more expensive: who’s going to pay for this? The cash-strapped government? Cash-strapped Transport for London?)
Research has shown passengers to be largely accepting of the need for screening – so long as it doesn’t inconvenience their journey – even finding it reassuring. But when we see armed police walking around train stations we tend to feel instantly less safe; they’re a reminder of a potential threat and, you know, a bit scary. Would security screening have the same effect: another step towards locking down London? Mind you, this has all been trialled before and then shelved so perhaps we’re getting grumpy for nothing.