Europe Rethinks Train Security after Foiled Jihadist Attack
European countries will increase identity checks and baggage controls on trains after American passengers thwarted an attack on a high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris, France's interior minister said Saturday.
Bernard Cazeneuve said the checks would be carried out "everywhere it is necessary" but did not give other details. He spoke after an emergency meeting in Paris with top security and transport officials from nine countries and the European Union in the wake of last week's attack attempt.
He called for better coordination on intelligence and security across Europe's border-free travel zone, and "coordinated and simultaneous actions" by European security forces, saying that is "indispensable" to protecting train travel.
He also said officials are looking at ways to work with the aviation industry on improving train security.
The suspect in last week's attack had been on the radar of European surveillance but bought his ticket in cash and showed no ID, and brought an automatic rifle and a handgun onboard unnoticed.
The ministers were also talking about giving train security staff more powers, and increasing the number of mixed patrols of international police teams on cross-border trains, 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.
One thing not on the table Saturday: calling into question the principles of Europe's border-free travel, known as the Schengen zone.
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.
"We can't do and don't want complete, comprehensive checks on people or luggage in trains in Germany or Europe," German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said on the sidelines of the meeting.
He said the main issue is to improve targeted cooperation and the exchange of information on suspicious people.
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 concerned about the cost of additional security, according to one of the French security officials.
Countries involved in Saturday's meeting were 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 were expected to press for the increased use of closed circuit cameras in trains and stations and more metal detectors at entrances.
The European Commission was to 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.
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.