UK abandons plan to put X-rays and metal detectors in commuter rail stations

The British government has scrapped a(n insane) plan to bring "airport style" security measures to the nation's train stations -- a plan that would have required the millions who board the overland rail system every day to have their bags X-rayed, go through metal detectors (and, presumably, remove their shoes and get rid of their liquids).
A trial found that introducing airport-style checks would be impractical and antagonise the public.

The transport minister, Tom Harris, said the public would not accept the resulting delays and there would be objections about personal privacy if an extensive screening regime was introduced.

"Screening equipment and dogs can be effective in the railway environment," said Harris in a written statement to parliament. "However, given the very large passenger flows and thousands of entry points on the UK rail and underground networks, 100% airport-style screening is currently not feasible."

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  1. The phrase that makes me happiest here is “A trial found that introducing airport-style checks would be impractical and antagonise the public.” In particular, I’m quite happy that they acknowledge that it would antagonise the public. This is something that gives me a bit of hope: Even if a government is naive to the ways of the world, at least the know that much.

  2. Really, the lack of effectiveness hasn’t really stopped governments from implementing ridiculous security theater anyway.

    Let’s see, what’s another transportation system that hundreds of thousands of people use daily that has security that is impractical and antagonizes the public? But people are just learning to take it in a fit of learned helplessness.

    It’s more probable that they’re not wanting to implement the “security” because they can’t afford it right now. Not antagonizing the public or inconveniencing people is almost surely NOT the reason they’re not starting it up at this point.

    /rant

  3. i love the thought of being xrayed everyday on the way to work.

    i didn’t want to father any more children anyway.

  4. Totally in keeping with the security theater craziness we’ve had in England lately. They even set up archways to allow access to Primrose Hill a few weekends ago! Primrose Hill!!?!

    Best quote from the article:

    “I’ve never seen such an idiotic waste of money and police time, or a strategy more calculated to do the terrorists’ job for them,” said Simon Jenkins, the knighted Guardian columnist and former Times editor.

    Scariest quote from the article:

    Chairman of the Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill residents association Malcolm Kafetz welcomed the police move. He said: “Its all very well talking about personal liberties but Primrose Hill is a dangerous area. They caught someone carrying drugs and they stopped anyone with knives going in. If this stops knife crime, quite frankly I think it is a good thing.”

    The searches resulted in exactly one arrest (for carrying in a Class A drug). Not one knife. I’m sure Mr. Kafetz would hold that up as proof of the program’s success. I’m reminded of the Benjamin Franklin quote: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

  5. Dear UK goverment: Can you think of any other places where airport-style checks are in place and might be impractical and antagonizing to the public?

  6. Dear UK goverment: Can you think of any other places where airport-style checks are in place and might be impractical and antagonizing to the public?

    The loo, for instance.

  7. I really can’t imagine that it would’ve actually happened under almost any circumstances.

    Anyone who’s been in London’s main commuter stations (London Bridge, Waterloo, Euston etc) during peak times will immediately see how ludicrous this is. Many thousands of people flow through each in the space of a couple of hours; the stations as they are can barely get people in or out fast enough. Introducing a bottleneck into these systems would be nothing short of insane; can you imagine already vocally resentful commuters having to join an hour long screening queue before making a 20 minute train journey? “Antagonised” doesn’t even come close to the reaction that would provoke.

    FWIW, part of my “terrorists are either deeply stupid or don’t exist” argument is that there haven’t been any post-IRA attacks on commuter trains. I imagine that derailing a train (or even just bombing a station) would be easier than downing an aircraft, and if you chose the right train you could kill or injure hundreds of rich people and scare many thousands more.

    I don’t kid myself that, if the country is crawling with terrorists, I’m smarter than all of them. So the fact these and similar obvious attacks never occur suggests that the threat is largely imaginary.

  8. What are the odds that Tom Harris either a) travels by private car or b) would have some Clear-type security bypass?

  9. Airport-style security…? Frankly, I’d submit to a chainmail-gauntleted cavity search if they’d bring in airline-style pricing as well. It used to cost a friend less to fly home from London to Nuremberg than I had to pay to crawl up towards Manchester by rail. My sister recently flew London-Milan and back, and that cost her less than the train to the airport.

  10. @Bugs. If “there haven’t been any post-IRA attacks on commuter trains” then what happened on 7 July 2005? 52 dead from bombs on trains and a bus.

    X-Rays are not acceptable at commuter train stations since frequent exposure causes a very slight increase in cancer and birth defects. Going from airport screening (weekly for some frequent flyers) to commuter train station screening (daily for normal office workers) exposes orders of magnitude more people, orders of magnitude more frequently and the health implications just have not been thought through.

  11. I don’t like these nanny states that western countries seem to become.

    ‘”The Public” needs to be ‘protected’ at all costs against those dastardly “terrorists”, and we will go so far as invade the privacy of said “Public” to protect them.’

    Look, mrs Government, I don’t want to have you nanny me like that, and I certainly don’t want to be belittled.
    I can fend for myself, thank you very much.

    Setting up metal detectors to prevent knifings in the park somehow seems a bit drastic to me.
    Especially since most picnic baskets contain knifes, that are perfectly capable of hurting people.

    What’s next? Metal detectors at the dinner table because of possible injuries with regards to the use of ladles?

    Don’t make me have my spork attack you!

  12. #7: I believe that the actual statistic is that a train either arrives or departs one of London’s mainline station once every 5-10 seconds during rush hour.

    That’s a ridiculous number of people passing through. There’s no way on earth you could screen all of them.

    Did Dr. Beeching dream this scheme up?

  13. talk about freedoms all you want. but lets see what you say when someone hijacks a train and crashes it into a skyscraper.

  14. any queues caused by introducing the scanners would make them perfect targets for suicide bombers… imagine, just join a massive queue and when you think the maximum number of victims are around you or you’ve just got to the head of it, trigger your device…

  15. @20: any big railway station in London (there’s about 10, plus the major subway stations) already has massive queues just to get out of the building. There’s over 500 people on a train, and a train arriving every 60-90 seconds or so. Some stations are so busy that they’re closed for access (you can only exit) at peak times. The article says ‘thousands’, but ‘millions’ would be more like it: about three million people travel by rail (and another three million by subway) every day, 1/3 of them into or within London.

  16. EXCELLENT point manicbassman. That’s exactly what I think every time I approach the enormous line just before security at any international terminal.

  17. “A trial found that introducing airport-style checks would be impractical and antagonise the public.
    The transport minister, Tom Harris, said the public would not accept the resulting delays and there would be objections about personal privacy if an extensive screening regime was introduced. ”

    So, this doesn’t happen with airports? Have people accepted the delays and the lack of personal privacy? I didn’t think so, but naybe we need to make some more noise.

  18. ya know, with nanotech leaping ahead the way it is, I think I forsee a logical solution to the indignities of the cavity search: ColonCam! All citizens could have CCTV with short range transmitters implanted in their large intestinal wall. Whenever you approach a transit checkpoint, it would automatically clear you. Well, “clear” you in one sense. Or do you think “AssCam” is more dignified?

  19. Anyone noticed that the same Guardian journalist paraphrased precisely the same story today, but under a headline with a rather different slant: Stations to get x-ray security.

    Yesterday the message was ‘unworkable security withdrawn, mostly’, but today’s has reversed emphasis: ‘new security introduced, with caveats’.

    I wonder what happened overnight….

  20. This article misses the point that while the government are thankfully not introducing “100% airport style screening” they are still introducing sniffer dogs and X-ray machines in various main-line and underground stations, starting with Waterloo in London (which is already a heaving rugby scrum at rush hour).
    See
    http://www.metro.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=193211&in_page_id=34&in_a_source=
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2008/jun/26/railtravel.terrorismandtravel?gusrc=rss&feed=networkfront

    Paranoia UK continues.

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