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Monday, August 20, 2012

Security Screening at Tube Stations Reconsidered

The Guardian reported that new consideration is to be given to the introduction of airport-style mass security screening at mainline rail stations and across the London Underground.

You may remember that a few years ago plans to install airport-style x-ray machines in every Tube and mainline rail stations across the UK were ruled out. Not surprisingly this was because passengers might find the delays caused by this a tad inconvenient and it would lead to "passenger rebellion". A six month trial at five unspecified locations in 2008 found that airport-style checks would be impractical and antagonise the public.

Even back in 2005 in the immediate aftermath of the summer bombings of our transport system a  Transport for London spokesperson said "Body scanners are completely impractical on the London Underground. Heathrow handles 67.1 million passengers each year - London Underground carries 976 million.

"You can just imagine the delays if such technology was introduced on the Tube. We are constantly reviewing technology to see what could be potentially employed - but body scanners are not an option for us. Our stations just don't have room for them"

However, the Home Office has now launched a search for new and emerging technologies that are capable of "rapidly screening huge numbers of passengers and which could be used in major train and tube stations and across the tube network".

The brief for the rail and Tube screening technology is looking for something to detect explosives, guns and knives, being carried by people and in bags, but "would also need a capacity to spot chemical and biological materials. The screening equipment needs to be able to scan wheelchairs, prosthetics, crutches, pushchairs and bikes as well as people and their luggage".

It says that while the stations can be defined as "crowded places", there are locations where crowd movement is "semi-controlled", such as at ticket barriers, queues, at the top and bottom of escalators and at platforms, which could prove suitable screening points. The equipment may be fixed and built into the station furniture, or portable, to be used in different areas depending on passenger flow, threat level or intelligence."

Turnham Green Tube Scanner Knife Arch

There are a number of stations on the Tube network that have knife arch scanners and it will be interesting to see how & whether technologyhas moved on from 2005 and 2008 when these ideas were last mooted.  At the moment the hunt for the technology is "academic" and will start next month, with results due in March 2013.

Related posts
Knife Arch Scanner spotted on the Tube
Aldwych Tube in Mock Terrorist Attack Exercise
No X-Ray machines at London Underground Stations
Scanning machines introduced on Heathrow Express Stations at Paddington

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