European security and transport chiefs are holding an emergency meeting Saturday in Paris to reconsider train security after American passengers thwarted an Islamic extremist attack on a high-speed trip from Amsterdam to Paris.
Baggage scans, identity checks, requiring ID to buy any train ticket and more armed guards are among measures being considered at the meeting of interior ministers and transport ministers from nine European countries, according to four French security or justice officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
The ministers are also talking about giving train security staff more powers, and increasing the number of mixed patrols of international police teams on cross-border trains.
France alone sees tens of thousands of international train passengers daily, in addition to millions of daily domestic train travelers. The country’s national rail authority SNCF is balking at the cost of additional security, however, according to one of the French security officials.
The ministers are not planning to call into question the principles of Europe’s border-free travel, known as the Schengen zone, according to officials. That means any new measures taken in the wake of the Aug. 21 train attack are likely to remain relatively modest.
The security officials said there’s no way to monitor each passenger and bag without choking the continental train system, which Europeans rely upon heavily.
Countries involved in Saturday’s meeting are France, Belgium, Britain, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland, as well as the European Union’s top transport and interior affairs officials.
EU officials will press for the increased use of closed circuit cameras in trains and stations and more metal detectors at entrances.
The man who plotted to attack a high speed train in France paid in cash, allowing him to avoid identifying himself. He boarded in Brussels, the EU capital, and carried a small arsenal of weapons in his bag.
The European Commission will raise the idea of using full-body scanners for people who try to board at the last minute. Another idea is the more concerted use of passenger information, which some companies already collect, like the traveler data collected in air transport.
Plainclothes ”rail marshals” are another possibility.
Saturday’s talks could lead to a code of conduct, according to EU officials, which might increase pressure on the rail industry to improve standards.
The results of Saturday’s conference will be debated by Europe’s rail security group on Sept. 11, and forwarded for EU transport ministers to discuss when they meet October 7-8.