Memorandum submitted by British Transport
1.1 British Transport Police (BTP) is the
dedicated, specialist police force for the railways. It functions
like other police forces with similar units, however, the environment
and crime mix dealt with is unique. Policing a transient population
and undertaking major crime and other investigations presents
challenges. An intimate understanding of the physical complexities
of the rail environment is vital: its unseen dangers, how it operates,
and how the public behaves in these surroundings. The railway
network is made up of 10,000 miles of track, 2,500 stations and
there are over two billion passenger journeys per year across
England, Wales and Scotland. BTP polices inter-city, cross-country,
suburban and rural services, the London Underground, light rail
(trams) and international services through the Channel tunnel.
1.2 BTP's ongoing mission is to ensure that
passengers, rail staff, operators and infrastructure owners can
all use the railways free from crime and the fear of crime. BTP
works within the national policing context and the priorities
set by the governments and executives in Westminster, Edinburgh
and Cardiff. The Force makes an important contribution to national
objectives, but, in line with the strategic direction set by the
Department for Transport (DfT), is increasingly focusing on the
specific needs of the rail system and strengthening those partnerships.
Neighbourhood Policing Teams (NPTs) are deployed at local level,
backed by a national, specialist organisation that is a world
leader in railway policing.
1.3 The following report is submitted in
relation to the issue defined by the Committee: "Protect:
the preparation of the UK's infrastructure against terrorist attack,
in particular, transport systems and crowded and vulnerable places."
In response to this subject the evidence in this paper first provides
an overview of key issues regarding managing terrorism related
risk in the mass transit rail environment; it provides an update
to the Committee on developments in counter terrorism activity
on the rail network since the atrocities on the Underground system
in July 2005 and finally discusses the issue of "proportionality"
in terms of policing the rail transport system.
2. MANAGING TERRORISM-RELATED
2.1 BTP, in addition to its collaboration
with the Association of Chief Police Officers (Terrorism and Allied
Matters) Committee (ACPO-TAM) is involved intimately with the
Department for Transport (DfT) led Transport Security Programme
Board. Within the rail environment, this work is integral
to the Protect strand supporting the overall Counter-Terrorist
Strategy (CONTEST) structure. Within the application of CONTESTparticularly
the Protect strandthere are several interrelated factors
that influence directly the ability to "secure" the
open, mass transit, railway.
Research, including the Appleton Inquiry Report
of 1992, more recent work by the Mineta Transportation Institute,
the RAND Corporation
and the House of Commons Transport Committee,
points to several recurring themes:
2.2.1 There is an inevitable cost (in terms
of exposure to risk) associated with operating rail services in
an open environment. The style of policing and the overarching
counter-terrorism strategy must acknowledge this.
2.2.2 Terrorism involves challenging, unpredictable
and, in real terms, rare events.
The wide range of variables and small dataset are not amenable
readily to conventional Quantitative Risk Assessment (QRA) techniques.
2.2.3 Policing the railway network is not an
activity that can be approached piecemeal. In particular, an intrinsically
close-coupled system (ie one in which the individual components
are highly interdependent) demands a consistent style of policing
2.2.4 There is a need for clear risk communication
at all levels. Such communication must be realistic and proportionate
if it is to reassure to a greater degree than it arouses.
2.3 The railway, by virtue of its core-function
(ie to move millions of people each day safely, with the minimum
of impediment; but not to provide a "citadel" against
terrorist attack) is not a risk-free environment. The societal
and individual benefits of rail travel involve exposure to a range
of interrelated potential hazards; both foreseeable and unforeseeable.
With direct reference to terrorism, allowing the relatively unhindered
movement of four million people each day around the iconic London
Undergroundwithout checking first their identity or belongingsis
a risk. The absolute benefit (and, arguably, the primary purpose)
is that because of the availability of mass transit rail travel,
London works. The potential cost is that the population
to whom the railway remains "open" may, at some point,
include terrorists; who may, at some point, attack it. Research
conduced by the DfT suggests the majority of rail users recognise
this yet still elect to travel by train.
The police for its part, and particularly BTP, in close cooperation
with partners in the rail industry, attempt to ensure the risk
is managed effectively and proportionately.
2.4 Recognising the need for proportionality
is central to the risk management philosophy and style of policing
adopted within the railway. For example, two highly-effective
risk management modelsfor dealing with unattended items
and anonymous threatswere developed specifically for Britain's
mass transit rail environment.
It is the close-coupled
nature of railwaysand the potential for a minor incident
to escalate rapidly in a way that, even based upon previous experiences,
may not be obviousthat makes these concerns particularly
acute. It is notable that suspicious and anonymous threats both
become more frequent, and their impact more acute, after high-profile
reporting of an attack. The approach of BTP (the counter-terrorist
strategy of which is aligned with CONTEST) has ensured that disruption
is kept to a minimum, that risk is maintained at a tolerable level
and that people can go about their lawful business.
3.1 The immediate response to the events
of July 2005 is well-documented in a variety of reports, including
a detailed account provided by BTP to the Home Affairs Committee
(see Reference B). Further detail was added as part of evidence
provided to the House of Commons Transport Committee in 2006 (see
Reference C). Since that evidence was presented, the risk has
been subject to constant assessment and developments have continued
to ensure hazards associated with terrorist attack can be managed
effectively. Many developments are clearly visible (and designed
so to be); others are conducted in a manner less likely to attract
significant public or media attention. This approach may be interpreted,
sometimes, as an indication that the police and rail industry
is primarily reactive. A recent letter from BTP to the Home Secretary
gives a clear indication of the range of recent proactive developments
devised to support, primarily, the Protect strand of CONTEST (see
Reference D). In summary:
3.1.1 BTP numbersthere has been an
increase in the number of BTP officers working in the three London
Areas from 1,344 in 2005 to 1,510 in 2008, 188 Police Community
Support Officers (PCSOs) have also been recruited in this period,
giving an overall increase in policing numbers of 26%.
3.1.2 Behavioural Awareness Screening System
(BASS)Since 2005, over 1,200 police officers have been
trained to incorporate BASS into their daily policing duties.
This has greatly assisted police activity associated with screening
and stop and search of people under the provisions of the Terrorism
3.1.3 PDA technologyOfficers
are now able to input stop and search data, etc, via PDAs, thus
increasing their availability for patrol duties.
3.1.4 Screening equipmentNew, real-time,
high-resolution x-ray equipment is currently being used to support
overt search activity. (Other technologies, such as Passive Millimetre
Wave are kept under constant review but, as yet, are not considered
suitable for use as a mass screening option);
3.1.5 DogsNationally, BTP now deploys
more explosives search dogs with a greater detection capability
than was the case in 2005;
3.1.6 Radio communicationsAirwave
Digital Tetra system is now implemented in all deep tube
and sub-surface stations including tunnels;
3.1.7 CCTV4,000 cameras on Network
Rail, 12,000 cameras on London Underground by 2011; accessible
to BTP and subject to a process of digital upgrade;
3.1.8 Unconventional weaponsIn terms
of the risks associated with the release of chemical, biological
or radiological materials BTP is a member of the Home Office Detection,
Identification and Monitoring Working Group, works closely with
a number of specialist agencies, and is constantly updating its
front-line capability. For example:
(a) Chemical hazardsBTP capability involves
some of the most advanced, commercially available, field-portable
equipment able to indicate, classify, identify and quantify several
thousand likely chemical hazards. This capabilityand the
specially trained and equipped officers to use itis unique
to BTP and the railway.
(b) Radiological hazardsBTP maintains
a capability to indicate, classify, identify and quantify radiation
hazards (including alpha, beta, gamma and neutron).
(c) Biological hazardsDespite acknowledged
challenges in this area
BTP has developed a proven procedure for dealing with "white
(d) "Fixed-Point Monitoring" equipmentThe
requirement for fixed-point "detection" on the London
Underground is kept under regular review and is being supervised
by DfT with the involvement of BTP, London Underground and Network
Rail. The prevailing view is that, at present, the cost is likely
to exceed the benefit and that the existing procedureinvolving
CCTV and rapid intervention by the BTP Specialist Response Unit
(SRU), and London Fire Brigade (including the joint Rescue and
Recovery Team (RART))represents a proportionate response.
(The railway in London has been subject to profiling activity
using a range of technologies since 1995.)
(e) ExplosivesBTP has significant experience
in dealing with the threat posed by improvised explosive devices.
The approach to this challenge involves:
(i) BTP's extensive use of explosive search
dogs in the London Underground and the national overground railway
(ii) BTP's "passive" detection capability
involving specially trained explosive search dogs;
(iii) BTP's explosive search dog's ability
to detect peroxide-based explosives (in addition to more "traditional"
(iv) BTP's newly introduced portable screening
capability (PSC) incorporating high-definition digital x-ray;
(v) the national availability of designated
counter-terrorist search teams;
(vi) the training of all rail staff in basic
counter terrorism awareness (jointly by TRANSEC
and BTP). London Underground, for example, has produced written
instructions for its staff,.
The DfT has produced written requirements and instructional DVDs
and training packs (eg, the Rail Industry Security Training
package). BTP worked closely with TRANSEC in framing the counter
terrorism advice in each case. (This is but one example of the
close working relationship between the rail regulator and the
(f) Emerging technologies in other parts of the
worldThe Home Office and DfT have both looked at "overseas"
systems and will be better placed to comment in detail about their
efficacy. The current assessment by BTP accords with the collective
view that none of the systems seen to date offer a more effective
means of managing risk than what is in place already. This situation
is, of course, kept under constant review.
4.1 The style of risk management outlined
above stands in stark contrast to that sometimes observed in public
spaces elsewhere, where the risk associated with terrorism is
perceived differently. (Examples of which might include, despite
the best intentions of the police, the media's characterisation
of tanks at Heathrow or the closure of Birmingham city centre
Integral to the maintenance of public confidence is the need for
clear evidence that terrorism-related risk is being managed proportionately
and effectively. It is, for example, exceedingly difficult to
promote the preferred resilience message of business as usual,
if stations are evacuated unnecessarily because of anonymous threats,
unattended items, "funny smells", the incongruous appearance
of loose "white" powders or other unidentifiable substances.
It would, of course, be equally hard to convey the same message
in the face of a rising death toll due to recurring attacks. In
some respects, it could be argued that this is the crux of the
proportionality debateand one of the reasons why risk aversion
is a sometimes easier option to justify than risk taking. In terms
of social amplification of risk (eg media coverage that not only
reports events but is often seen as defining and shaping the issue),
it seems unlikely that images of normality will ever be as compelling
as scenes of death, destruction and human suffering.
4.2 Maintaining the utility of the rail
services in the face of the latent threat from terrorism requires
a thorough understanding of how the different aspects of mass
transit rail combine to operate as a system. In the rail environment,
any "local" decision may affect hundreds of thousands
of people and train services nationally. Precipitous action to
close a station, without first considering how passengers and
train movements will be affected, could lead to a number of adverse
(and from the perspective of a Public Inquiry, perhaps entirely
foreseeable) consequences. These could include: people being trapped
in trains, possibly in tunnelswith the attendant risks
of self-evacuation onto the track or suffocation; overcrowding
on platforms at feeder stationswith the possibility of
crushing, or people falling onto the line of route; the uncoordinated
movement of large numbers of people all seeking alternative transport.
Particularly when a credible link to terrorism is not established
subsequently, this approach provides a less than edifying public
spectacle. (Note, for example, the adverse and unintended consequences
following the well-intentioned closure of Aintree racecourse during
the Grand National, in 1997and the medias portrayal
of the police response.)
The threat posed by suicide bombers, and their ability to exploit
crowded locations at very short notice, further amplifies the
need for caution when considering the large-scale and uncoordinated
movement of the public.
5. SUMMARY AND
5.1 The benefits of open mass transit rail
travel are obtained only at the expense of tolerating some exposure
to terrorism-related risks. There are, of course, many other sources
of risk, to which exposure is more likely than a terrorist attack,
but which (for a number of reasons) do not convey the same dread.
The reporting of terrorist attacks across the world, through television
coverage, in print and across the internet appears to be how many
people's perceptions of terrorism-related risk are formed; and
this wide-range of "inputs" probably accounts for the
wide-range of "outputs" when people are confronted by
unexpected and ambiguous events. While the probability of terrorist
attack cannot be reduced to zero, anxieties can be reduced if
the benefits of taking risks are shown to outweigh the costs.
To ensure `buy-in', there must also be clear evidence that risk
is being managed effectively as an active policy, rather than
being ignored or used to justify an unduly disruptive approach.
For rail users to know the railway is safe from attack is likely
to be of little consolation if stations are closed and train services
suspended on a regular basis just in case.
5.2 Identifying where, when, or how attacks
will occur remains problematic,
but close examination of previous incidents (real or hoax, of
direct or indirect applicability) is vital in terms of focusing
the counter-terrorism effort. To pass the "mass transit test",
police activity within CONTEST must remain cognisant of the values
of the society (and societal perceptions of risk) within which
it exists. In this regard, the Protect strand of CONTEST is pivotal.
Specialist policing of the railway acknowledges that terrorism
and the fear terrorism generates cannot be countered through a
"piecemeal" approach. Consistency enhances resilienceas
witnessed by the rapid return to normality following incidents
(real, hoax or false), or, in many cases, the absence of any visible
disruption at all. In terms of risk management, the rail network
cannot be viewed simply as a series of localised security challenges.
Countering-terrorism (in the broadest sense) means developing
a clear and inclusive philosophy of managing risk actively and
communicating risk effectively.
It involves working within the national strategy, but ensuring
activities are proportionate, relevant and commensurate with the
aims of mass transit rail travel. To date, the success of the
rail industry and BTP in minimising disruption caused by "false"
incidents, without taking risks that were proved subsequently
to have been reckless, has been matched only by the effective
response to confirmed acts of terrorism. Or, as Sir Richard Mottram
(the former Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator in the Cabinet
Office) put it:
"|the need is to have a security response
that is proportionate and is not self-defeating. You have to be
able to travel if the purpose is to travel".
A. Royal Society (1992) Risk: analysis, perception
and management, London: The Royal Society.
B. BTP (2005) Issues arising from the London
bombings, British Transport Police written evidence to the
Home Affairs Committee, dated 13 September.
C. House of Commons Transport Committee (2007)
Travelling without fear, London: The Stationery Office
D. BTP (2008) Re: Minutes of Evidence Taken
Before Home Affairs Committee13 November 2008"The
Work of the Home Office" letter from Deputy Chief Constable
BTP to the Home Secretary, dated 1 December.
E. Adams, J (1995) Risk, London: UCL Press.
F. Appleton, B (1992) Appleton Inquiry Report,
G. BTP (2005) Review of advice from the British
Transport Police concerning the management of unattended items
discovered at "railway" locations, London: FHQ.
H. Furedi, F (2007) Invitation to terror:
expanding the empire of the unknown, London: Continuum Books
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transportation against terrorism and serious crime: continuing
research on best security practices, San Jose, CA: Mineta
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transportation systems and patrons from terrorist activities,
San Jose, CA: Mineta Transportation Institute.
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public surface transportation against terrorism and serious crime:
continuing research on best security practices, San Jose,
CA: Mineta Transportation Institute.
L. London Underground Limited (2001) "HOT
stuff", in On the move, April 2001, Issue 64.
M. Perrow, C (1999) Normal Accidents,
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Report DRR-421-NIJ Securing America's Passenger Rail System.
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detecting and decontaminating chemical and biological agents,
London: The Royal Society (www.royalsoc.ac.uk).
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and operating safe and secure transit systems: assessing current
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(i) to evaluate the reduction
in risk achieved as a result of specific precautions, and
(ii) to identify and
evaluate, or rank, other risks arising from stoppages brought
about by such precautions, and their impact on systems availability
and associated recurrent and investment costs, in light of the
stoppage on the Central line on 19 February 1991;
(b) to consider what parallels
may exist in relation to other mass transport and high-density
9 Security, in this context, is related to an
aspirational absence of risk. Back
Brian Appleton was a senior chemical engineer and risk manager
with ICI. In 1991, he was selected by the Health and Safety Executive
to report into the way certain types of hazard were being managed
on the railways. The terms of reference included: Back
See: Jenkins (1997 and 2001); Jenkins and Gersten (2001) and Taylor
et al (2005). The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) was created
by the US Congress in 1991. It is the leading academic body in
the US dedicated to the study of transportation. MTI works closely
with leading academics from a wide variety of US universities
(eg UCLA). Back
See Rand Corporation (2007) Back
The House of Commons (2007) Travelling Without Fear report,
referenced below. Back
This paper does not seek to define terrorism. However,
the term is used throughout within the context of what has happened
in Britain in particular and Europe in general, rather than what
is happening in Iraq or Afghanistan. (See, for example, The
definition of terrorism: a report by Lord Carlile of Berriew QC,
independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, see: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/carlile-terrorism-definition Back
See, for example, the DfT document: Research Findings: Attitudes
to Transport Security After Jul 05 London Bombings. Despite
the high threat level and media focus on terrorism, in September
2007, the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) reported
that Britain's railways were busier than at any time since 1946-passenger
usage (measured in passenger kilometres) having risen by over
40% since 1997. See http://www.atoc-comms.org/dynamic/dynamic/atoc-press-story/997819/BRITAIN-S-RAILWAY-STILL-THE-FASTEST-GROWING-IN-EUROPE Back
See Reference C, Memorandum from BTP (TS13), Appendix 1 Back
Perrow (1999) identifies environments such as railways as being
tightly coupled and thus prone to "incomprehensible
Note: tolerability does not imply acceptability-see
Reference A p.93 Back
In response to comments made by Mr. Patrick Mercer, MP and published
in several news papers. See, for example: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/3453696/London-Underground-remains-unsafe.html Back
Hand-held computers known as Personal Digital Assistants Back
See, for example: http://www.bapcojournal.com/news/fullstory.php/aid/139/Mobile_Data_improves_efficiency_with_BTP.html Back
See, for example: http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/security/land/lunr?page=6 Back
See, for example; http://www.buildingtechnologies.siemens.co.uk/NR/rdonlyres/29569EF1-7EA3-413C-A6E3-D15608C2D588/12473/Network_Rail1.pdf
and http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/media/newscentre/archive/4412.aspx Back
See, for example the work of the Home Office Detection Identification
and Monitoring Working Group Back
The Transport Security and Contingencies Directorate of DfT Back
For example, a 22 page document entitled "London Underground
Security Employee Guidance"-last updated in March 2008) Back
See, for example, http://news.bbc.co.uk/l/hi/uk/2749659.stm "Army
patrols Heathrow" dated 11 February 2003 and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml
"Thousands evacuated in Birmingham bomb scare" dated
11 July, 2005. Back
See, for example, Kasperson, R.E. (1988) The social amplification
of risk: a conceptual framework, in Slovic, P. (2004) Back
See, for example, the description of the Bethnal Green incident
in Appleton (1992). Back
At Aintree, a hoax threat displaced over 60,000 people, leaving
approximately 20,000 stranded because their cars were within the
cordon. http://www.bbc.co.uk/liverpool/content/articles/2006/12/01/local_history_aintree_1997_feature.shtml Back
The term "dread" risk was used by Slovic et al.
to describe risks that were considered uncontrollable, subject
to involuntary exposure and where there was perceived to be an
inequitable distribution of risks. Their research placed terrorism
in the top-five of ninety hazards-just behind nerve gas, nuclear
power, warfare and nuclear weapons. See Chapter 5 of Royal Society
Note the comment by the Director-General of MI5, on 6 July 2005,
that an attack in London was not anticipated; reported in the
Guardian and cited in Furedi (2007). Back
Resilience, in this context, meaning the ability to absorb an
attack (or, indeed the consequences of an ambiguous incident)
and continue to operate effectively. Back
Effective risk communication does not imply the front-loading
of masses of technical data of indeterminate interest. In many
respects, the railway experience supports the adage that less
is more. Back
In oral evidence taken before the Transport Committee on 3 May,
2006, published in December 2007, (House of Commons Transport
Committee (2007). (Reference C) Back