Security on Europe’s rail networks will be stepped up with cross-border armed patrols and increased spot checks on trains, European ministers said on Saturday.
Tickets on international routes could also bear passengers’ names, under a proposal to be considered by European states.
In response to the foiled gun attack on a French train last weekend, Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and ministers from eight other European countries agreed at a meeting in Paris to step up cooperation between national police and security forces.
More information about terror suspects will also be shared, they said, following criticism that Spain, where the train attacker had lived for seven years and was known to authorities, failed to warn France in time that he had moved to the country.
In a joint declaration read by the French interior minister, Bernard Cazeneuve, the ministers said there would be more joint police patrols in trains by officers from neighbouring countries.
Photo: MICHEL EULER/AFP/Getty Images
International rail tickets could show passengers’ names and police will be able to ask for identity papers during spot checks even when trains are crossing borders where passport controls have been abolished under the Schengen agreement.
The ministers stressed the need for “coordinated and simultaneous checks on targeted routes” and urged the European Commission to strengthen gun control.
They stopped short of recommending the systematic introduction of airport style security at railway stations, with scanners and baggage X-rays at passenger terminals and surveillance cameras in train carriages.
They did not rule out installing more metal detectors at key points and said spot checks and armed police patrols on trains would be increased.
Passengers boarding Eurostar trains to Britain from Paris and Brussels already face airport-style security checks. Extending that level of security to other international and intercity trains in Europe has been discussed but experts advised that the high numbers of passengers on European trains make such measures impractical. In France, 20 times more travellers pass through railway stations than airports each day.
Mrs May said in a statement: “I reiterated the importance of proactively sharing intelligence across borders; particularly travel data and criminal records; and ensuring our law enforcement agencies are working hand in hand. Only by working together can we protect our citizens and defeat those who want to harm us.”
The threat of an atrocity and the need for tighter security on Europe’s rail networks became glaringly obvious after the attack on the Amsterdam-Paris express last weekend. It was thwarted by the intervention of a British IT consultant and three American tourists. Ayoub el-Khazzani, the 25-year-old Moroccan charged over the attack, managed to board the train in Brussels armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle, a Luger handgun, 270 rounds of ammunition and a bottle of petrol, without being challenged.
The Spanish authorities were accused of delaying before informing their French counterparts that Khazzani, who had been living in Spain, moved to France last year. He was able to travel between the two countries without showing his passport because the Schengen agreement has abolished border controls. Britain is not one of the 26 members of the Schengen zone.