Christopher Irwin made a presentation on the passengers’ perspective concerning security at the extraordinary LANDSEC meeting on Rail Passenger Security.

The European Passengers’ Federation, an association of users’ organisations in 20 European countries, considers that proportionality is vital in reacting to the terrifying Thalys incident. Terrorist attacks on the rail system are almost as old as the mode itself. Fortunately, no passenger fatalities have occurred in the EU from such incidents for more than ten years. If reducing fatalities and injuries is our concern we should remember that each day about one person dies and one person is seriously injured in incidents involving level crossings – and this represents only 1% of road fatalities in the EU – while across the EU car travel kills almost 50 times more people per billion passenger kilometres than rail.

We don’t want passengers driven to more dangerous modes. Great Britain’s independent but publically-financed passenger watchdog has been measuring passenger attitudes to the terrorist threat to travel ever since the multiple attacks on London’s underground and bus system on 7.7.2005 which killed 52 people and injured 700 more. This major twice-yearly research exercise gives us a clear picture of passengers’ reactions to such events. Within a year of the attacks (whose effects were probably amplified two weeks later when police erroneously shot an innocent passenger on an underground train) the surge in public fear about terrorism and personal security when travelling had dissipated. Just over 10% of passengers cite personal security concerns as a factor inhibiting their train travel. Of that number, by far the greatest inhibitor cited (around 70%) is the concern generated by the anti-social behaviour of others, followed by the perceived absence of staff (well over 40%).

Fear of terrorism typically ranks at the bottom of the list of personal security concerns. It generally accounts for significantly less than 10% of those passengers for whom personal security fears inhibit rail travel in Great Britain – a fraction of 1% of all rail travellers. Except when acts of terrorism against the rail system are fresh in people’s minds, the typical attitude ’I expect to be safe but I don’t expect to be inconvenienced (by security precautions)’. This is not to say that there is nothing to be done: alert passengers can be the eyes and ears of a secure environment. Variable threat conditions demand scalable response capabilities whilst institutional shortcomings at European level may lie behind costly weaknesses in intelligence coordination.

Delivery of the Digital Single Market Strategy in the transport sector can be used to create an even more secure transport environment, through the intelligent use of things as diverse as passenger applications’ telematics for nominative ticketing and PNR or video surveillance and behaviour recognition technologies. But in the end it needs to be borne in mind that useful ground transport systems must remain open networks: this is a key to jobs, growth and investment as well as fundamental to personal mobility as the right of every European citizen. Over-intervention – in relation to high speed rail, for example – may risk displacing the threat into more open parts of the transport system (e.g. the Madrid commuter train bombings of 2004) or into potentially much more vulnerable areas such as cyberspace.’

You can find his presentation here : EPF presentation LANDSEC 09 2015