Land trasport security - scope for further EU involvement? - Transport Committee Contents

2  Existing arrangements for land transport security in the UK

The current legislative framework

5.  In Great Britain, the rail network (the infrastructure operated by Network Rail and HS1 and the train operating companies using it), London Underground, the Docklands Light Railway and the Glasgow Subway are mainly regulated by instructions issued under the Railways Act 1993, under which the Government places legal obligations on the operators to put in place particular security arrangements.[6] With other networks such as trams and buses, the Department for Transport (DfT) provides best practice guidance, rather than formal regulation.[7]

6.  A significant aspect of the UK's domestic rail and bus networks is that they are open, that is, they operate on a "turn up and go" basis where it is not necessary to pre-book travel arrangements. Unlike domestic services the Channel Tunnel railway network is not an open system. Channel Tunnel services are governed by specific directions, under the Channel Tunnel (Security) Order 1994, which ensure that passengers, vehicles and goods are subject to searching prior to boarding. Additionally, Channel Tunnel terminals are restricted zones that only persons with legitimate reason are allowed to enter. Under the provisions of the Treaty of Canterbury 1986, the UK and France jointly agree security arrangements regarding rail services using the Tunnel.[8]

7.  Further legislation, based on internationally agreed recommendations, is in place to regulate the movement of dangerous goods by road and rail. In the UK, the principal legislation in this area is Directive 2008/68/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 September 2008 on the inland transport of dangerous goods.[9]

The risk-based approach

8.  The current approach to land transport security in the UK has been described to us as "risk-based", whereby any security measures deployed are proportionate to the current threats that the sector is exposed to.[10] This often results in different responses at different times in different transport sectors. The risk-based approach was widely supported across industry.[11] Chris Welsh, from the Freight Transport Association (FTA), explained that this approach was "more likely to achieve results" as it ensured that authorities were better able to target potential problem areas rather than inconveniencing the whole sector with an unduly heavy-handed approach to security.[12]

9.  We questioned witnesses on how appropriate a risk-based approach was, particularly in relation to minimising the threat of a terrorist attack on the land-based transport network. Peter Lovegrove, from the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), told us that there were three factors that needed to be balanced: cost versus benefits of security measures; the practicality of security measures that are both workable for the industry and also acceptable to the travelling public; and, the balance between technology and human activity. We raised concerns that the risk-based approach might be seen as having been complacent if there was a serious terrorist attack, akin to the 2004 Madrid train bombing, on the UK's transport network. Mr Lovegrove disagreed and stated that "ultimately, the rail industry takes its guidance from the security services on where the risks are greatest and what form they take".[13] The Rt Hon Simon Burns MP, Minister of State for Transport, assured us that "considerable work is done, day in and day out, to give the highest level of protection to both the transportation system and to those using it".[14] Andrew Cook, Head of International Rail at the DfT, explained that enforcement measures include the use of DfT compliance inspectors who make sure that railway operators are compliant with agreed security measures.[15] Similar procedures are in place with the cross-border Eurostar and Eurotunnel operations. Mr Cook added that "there is a certainty that the level of security that the Government require is being met either through covert tests or regular frequent visits to the different sites".[16]

10.  John Fuller, Head of Land Transport Security at DfT, acknowledged that there would be disadvantages to the current approach if the threats to land transport networks were not correctly identified or if there were problems with the analysis of risk. Concerns were raised by Jack Semple, from the Road Haulage Association (RHA), about how risks are identified and reacted to "in the era of cuts at the police level".[17] The FTA and RHA raised specific concerns about the Government withdrawal of financial support for the TruckPol service, which comprised a small team of police active in compiling intelligence from across the UK on lorry and load theft.[18] The RHA acknowledged that while the TruckPol service was not perfect, it was hoped that a similar reporting system would be established by the National Business Crime Solution, which allows participating businesses to report and analyse collective business crime data on a national level.[19] The Minister explained that the decision to withdraw funding was taken by the Home Office and that "it would be up to any police and crime commissioner who might wish to spend money from their budgets locally to take part in TruckPol to do so if they wanted to".[20] We recommend that Government acknowledge the importance of the work done by TruckPol and work with industry to ensure that the successor system is fit for purpose.

11.  In general terms, Mr Fuller told us that the DfT "work hand-in-glove with the intelligence agencies [and were] constantly looking at where the new threats might be coming from".[21] Mr Fuller added that, with the current state of technology, there were no conceivable practical alternatives to a risk-based approach that would deliver people quickly to where they needed to go.[22]

Strengths and weaknesses

12.  Given the widespread support for a risk-based approach it is not surprising that this approach was seen as a strength of the current security regime. The relationship between transport operators, the DfT and the British Transport Police was also seen as a strength.[23] The RHA noted, in relation to the security of trucks and the goods they carry, that another strength in the UK was that it was considered to have a "clear legal system and, in parts, effective enforcement".[24]

13.  Nonetheless, concerns were raised about general weaknesses in the current security regime, these included:[25]

  • The need to rely on the accurate identification of threats to make a risk-based approach work;
  • Funding arrangements that placed significant financial responsibilities on transport operators, while the benefits were more widespread;
  • The challenge of dealing with multi-modal transport hubs at which different threat levels (and hence different security requirements) are applied to different modes;
  • Ensuring that staff had a consistent level of training and an understanding of potential threats, risks and preventative measures;
  • The difficulty of maintaining a high level of both staff and public vigilance; and
  • In relation to cross-border services, the complexity of differing security requirements from one country to another.

We discussed, with representatives of the transport industry, the potential to address at EU-level these concerns in the context of the proposals in the Commission's staff working document.

6   The regulatory framework in Northern Ireland is different but in practice, the security regime is broadly similar to that for the railways in Great Britain. Back

7   Ev 26, paras 7-11 [Department for Transport] Back

8   Ev 26, para 9 [Department for Transport]  Back

9   Ev 20, para 4 [Rail Freight Group]; and Ev 26, para 9 [Department for Transport] Back

10   Ev 26, para 4 [Department for Transport] Back

11   Q 2 [Chris Welsh, Freight Transport Association]; Q 3 [Jack Semple, Road Haulage Association]; Q 5 [Chris Dugdale, Rail Freight Group]; Q 47 [Peter Guy, Network Rail]; and Q 48 [Peter Lovegrove, Association of Train Operating Companies, and Gareth Williams, Eurostar] Back

12   Q 2 [Chris Welsh, Freight Transport Association] Back

13   Q 57 [Peter Lovegrove, Association of Train Operating Companies] Back

14   Q 108 [Rt Hon Simon Burns MP] Back

15   Q 109 [Andrew Cook, DfT] Back

16   Q 109 [Andrew Cook, DfT] Back

17   Q 3 [Jack Semple, Road Haulage Association] Back

18   Q 4 [Jack Semple, Road Haulage Association]; Q 21 [Chris Welsh, Freight Transport Association]; and Ev 17, para 12 [Freight Transport Association] Back

19   Q 42 [Jack Semple, Road Haulage Association]; and Ev 18 [Road Haulage Association] Back

20   Q 112 [Rt Hon Simon Burns MP] Back

21   Q 98 [John Fuller, Head of Land Transport Security, DfT] Back

22   Qq 101-104 [John Fuller, Head of Land Transport Security, DfT] Back

23   Ev w1 [British Transport Police]; and Ev 21, paras 2.1-2.2 [Association of Train Operating Companies and Network Rail] Back

24   Ev 18 [Road Haulage Association] Back

25   Q 98 [John Fuller, Head of Land Transport Security, DfT]; Ev w2 [British Transport Police]; Ev 22, para 2.5 [Association of Train Operating Companies and Network Rail]; and Ev 25, para 4 [Eurostar] Back

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Prepared 22 March 2013