French plans to install airport-style security gates at some stations to prevent terror attacks on cross-border trains will be largely pointless because Germany and Holland have no plans to do the same.
The plan was announced last month after a man on a Thalys high-speed train from Amsterdam to Paris tried to open fire on passengers with a Kalashnikov.
The gates are due be placed by the end of next week on platforms in Lille and Paris used by the Thalys trains that link France with Brussels, Amsterdam, Cologne in Germany and several other intermediate cities.
Segolène Royal, the French ecology minister who also has responsibility for transport, has said Belgian, German and Dutch authorities will also install the gates, which one British rail expert has described as “security theatre” that will do nothing to prevent further attacks.
But officials in both Germany and Holland told the Telegraph that while extra security measures such as more armed guards, and more spot checks, have been taken on their rail networks, there were currently no plans to install similar gates at stations on their territory.
That means that a would-be attacker could relatively easily board a train there.The attacker on the Thalys train in August was on a Paris-bound train and had boarded it in Belgium. His Kalashnikov jammed as he attempted to spray passengers with bullets and he was overpowered by passengers.
Peter Lybeer, a spokesman for Thalys in Brussels, said: “The security measures are not happening at the moment in the Netherlands or in Germany. That is a decision for those governments to take.
“In Rotterdam, for instance, they have a security gate where you have to enter your ticket, but they don’t ask for passports or have a metal detector,” he said.
A spokesman for the Dutch ministry of security and justice confirmed that it is not currently putting in metal detectors or passport checks at Thalys stations.
Officials at Germany’s transport ministry said they were not aware of any plans to install security gates.
But even if security gates were set up at all Thalys stations, none are planned for the dozens of stations in France and in surrounding countries from which trains travel daily across the borders.
“This is so-called security theatre, to reassure people, not to actually stop terrorists, which it won’t,” said Mark Smith, an expert on international rail travel.
He argues that trains, unlike planes, are no more vulnerable than any other public spaces, “so it would be no more logical to have airport security for a train than to have it for McDonald’s, Starbucks, the station itself, or just the street you walk in.”
“It’s even less logical to have it for the Thalys to Brussels but not for the TGV (high-speed train) to Lille sitting on the platform next to it. Or the local train to Saint Denis, for that matter,” he said.
The French transport ministry was not able to provide anyone to comment on the usefulness of setting up security gates in Paris and Lille for Thalys trains when Germany and Holland were not doing the same.