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Terrorism: Rail and Underground Passenger Screening

Volume 702: debated on Thursday 26 June 2008

My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport (Tom Harris) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

During 2006, in response to the continuing terrorist threat to the rail network, the Department for Transport carried out passenger screening trials to test the ability of available equipment and dogs to detect explosives, or traces of explosives, in an operational environment.

The London Underground and National Railways (LUNR) passenger screening trials took place at five locations over a six-month period, with the full co-operation of the British Transport Police, Network Rail, London Underground and other stakeholders. Public attitudes surveys were conducted in parallel with the trials. Since then, we have been considering the results of the trials with key stakeholders and the implications for rail security policy.

I am publishing a summary report of the trials on the DfT website, together with five detailed reports on the public attitudes research. Copies have also been placed in the Libraries of the House. We are not publishing detailed reports on the individual trials for security reasons, due to the sensitivity of the information within them.

At the same time, the British Transport Police is announcing enhancements to its current screening capability through the use of X-ray equipment and explosives detection dogs capable of screening moving passengers. These enhancements will build on the BTP’s existing measures to screen a proportion of passengers and their bags, with minimal delay.

The enhancements are a direct response to the conclusions from the trials which showed that:

screening equipment and dogs can be effective in the railway environment. However, given the very large passenger flows and thousands of entry points on the UK Rail and Underground networks, 100 per cent airport-style screening is currently not feasible using today's technology; and

the public recognise the threat to the rail network, and are broadly supportive of the need for security measures, provided that they are proportionate to the threat. However, the public would be unlikely to accept major delays to journeys, and want to ensure that personal privacy is protected.

We will continue to work with the BTP and operators to assess the effectiveness and impact of these new measures and will use this evidence, and that from elsewhere in the UK and abroad, to develop further ways of keeping the travelling public secure using proportionate measures.