Train scanners backed by public?
The BBC reports that,
Passengers are ready to accept airport-style security screening at certain railway stations, Transport Secretary Douglas Alexander has said.
A trial of X-ray body scanners and other machines will report shortly, Mr Alexander told MPs.
Presumably these include ‘backscatter’ and ‘passive millimetre’ imaging systems.
But he said initial findings suggested passengers “understood the need” for extra security.
The trials, at underground and railway stations in and around London, followed the 7 July bombings last year.
Randomly chosen passengers were asked go through a scanner or were searched either by hand, electronic trace equipment or sniffer dogs.
Mr Alexander said the trials had taken place this year at Paddington Heathrow Express, Canary Wharf, Greenford, Euston and Brighton stations.
With regard to Canary Wharf,
John Garwood, a spokesman for the Canary Wharf Group, which manages the 100-acre site where 80,000 people work and 100,000 visit each week, said the [Thruscan] system was being installed to reassure companies, their staff and the public that the site was as safe as it could be. “This is not a response to a specific threat,” he said.
“Installed to reassure companies, their staff and the public? That looks like security theatre,” my inner cynic said.
Back to Mr Alexander,
“I am satisfied that the emerging findings will assist us to identify a proportionate way forward in applying technological solutions to improve security both on railways and underground networks,” he told the Commons transport select committee.
He said “extensive social research” carried out as part of the trials had shown “the public see the need for increased security and generally find the processes used in the trials to be acceptable”.
So some people aren’t ready to accept such systems. It would be interesting to see the proportion who do, and don’t. Especially given the recent poll that suggested people are concerned about our surveillance society.
The USA’s Transport and Security Administration (TSA) has attempted to address privacy concerns by “working with vendors in order to provide optimum security and maximum privacy”. Some sample images are available from the TSA’s website.
The report would be finished “before Christmas” and his department would then publish the findings.
“We will reach judgements when we have those reports in front of us as to any operational consequences that should follow,” Mr Alexander told MPs.
Mr Alexander said the threat of a terrorist attack in the UK remained “severe”.
I await with interest the report, and the cost-benefit analysis that shows it is worth installing these scanners on our Tube and railway network.