Security Screening Considered For Tube And Rail Stations

Rachel Holdsworth
By Rachel Holdsworth Last edited 70 months ago
Security Screening Considered For Tube And Rail Stations

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.

Photo by kenjonbro from the Londonist Flickr pool

Last Updated 20 August 2012

Phil Swales

Bad idea.


Do we know if they're considering this as a permanent feature, or are they more interested in having the ability to set up screens quickly at times of high alert?

Steve James

I'm guessing G4S will be tendering for the job

ASLEF shrugged

Totally pointless.
The Tube has 270 stations, some with multiple entrances, some which
are shared with mainline rail, with passengers transfering from mainline trains to the Tube without having to go through the ticket barriers.
In addition
to the huge expense of installing the equipment you would then have to have additional staff monitoring the
scanners. Should someone attempt to
smuggle explosives onto the system who exactly is going to try to prevent them;
the station staff? No, lets waste more
money researching the painfully obvious.

Dean Nicholas

They do a similar thing already in a more limited fashion with the portable 'knife arches' that crop up occasionally.

Joel Phillips

To be fair, it's not a tender for the stuff itself, just a literature review. The Home Office ought to know whether this kind of security would be feasible, and spending £20k on having someone answer the question thoroughly isn't unreasonable. It means that if there is another attack on London's public transport, a minister gets to go on Newsnight and say "Yes, we did look at security screening and it just doesn't work, here's the document. Now can we talk about all the other things that we're doing that do work."