Following the attack by a lone roving gunman on a Thalys train in northern France in 2015 the European Commission immediately initiated work on a possible rail security initiative. EPF was an active participant in the consultations on the issue: Christopher Irwin and Willy Smeulders represent passengers in the Commission’s Land Security Expert Group, LANDSEC.
The two EPF representatives consistently argued for a proportionate approach to the threat to passengers. They rejected early proposals that special security controls should be introduced for people using High Speed trains and cross-border services. They explained that this would undermine the concept of ‘turn-up-and-go’ travel, even if it were possible to isolate sufficient space in stations to mount effective security controls. They pointed out that, if realised, the air transport style checks demanded by the more populist political voices would cause people to switch away from train travel. It would create an enormous new cost burden on rail use which would ultimately have to be met by passengers and taxpayers. Travellers would be pushed onto Europe’s road-network where threats are less easily monitored, thereby increasing the security risk.
Instead, the EPF team worked closely with other stakeholders to press for a proportionate, risk-based approach to security management. Noting the continuing need for better cooperation between national security authorities, the team pressed the case for improved information-sharing internationally and the exchange of best practice. In April the college of Commissioners decided not to pursue any legislative initiative for the time being. Instead, it agreed on the development of an action plan on rail security covering such things as the exploration of common risk assessment methodologies, the development of technical guidance and the creation of mechanisms at national level for sharing relevant information.
Stakeholders, including EPF, are to be invited to join a Rail Security Platform that will contribute to coordination and shaping discussion. The Commission emphasised the importance of the passenger voice in this work: as EPF had argued throughout the debate, passengers can contribute as the ‘eyes and ears’ of a securer transport network.