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

3  The European Commission's staff working document

Overall aim of the document

14.  The main aim of the European Commission's staff working document is "to consider what can be done at the EU-level to improve transport security, particularly in areas where putting in place common security requirements would succeed in making Europe's transport systems more resilient to acts of unlawful interference".[26] The security issues covered are wide ranging, from counter-terrorism to relatively minor crime. The Commission explains that transport security is not as well advanced as it could be in the EU as a whole for several reasons:[27]

  • Security can be perceived by some transport operators to be a negative cost, or something that is not their responsibility to provide;
  • Mandatory requirements for transport security usually develop reactively following major incidents, indicating a lack of political urgency to develop pro-active measures;
  • Cargo crime has often been neglected, in part because it is perceived to be a "victimless crime";
  • Levels of security are often not consistent across intermodal transport hubs;
  • There have been insufficient efforts to deal with cross-border crime; and
  • Attitudes towards the risks from terrorist attacks against transport targets vary considerably throughout the EU.

15.  Broadly speaking, the organisations we consulted in the course of this inquiry recognised that the Commission's aim to improve transport security had merit and that the staff working document raised some important issues. In the section below we discuss reaction to the Commission's document both in relation to the general premise that EU-level action is needed and also the specific proposals identified.

Reaction to the Commission's document


16.  The Commission's document stated that "whilst transport security policy should be developed at national or local level under the principle of subsidiarity, […] there is an added value to certain actions being taken at the EU-level". However, concerns were raised about a lack of evidence to support the assertion that EU-level action was either needed or desirable.[28] Moreover, the case was often put forward for national or local action rather than action at the EU-level. For example, we heard that security risks are different according to the nature of the transport service as well as the country in which they are operated.[29] It follows that security measures are best tailored to those different circumstances. The Minister was clear that it is Member States themselves that "are best placed to understand the particular threat they face and judge what measures are needed".[30] We sought clarification on whether the Government's stance against further EU legislation in this area was based on political principle rather than direct evidence, particularly given the EU's good record in regulating other transport sectors, such as aviation. However, the Minister rejected this and explained that drawing too many parallels with other transport modes was inappropriate. The international aviation sector, for example, was fundamentally different to the predominantly domestic land transport sector. [31]

17.  In making the case for EU-level action, the Commission also argued that "where the EU has no baseline standards for transport security there is a risk that those countries with low levels of security become the 'entry point' into the EU for security risks".[32] This was a concern echoed by industry. For example, the FTA explained that "the greatest efforts to improve transport security in Europe need to be made at the external border crossings of the Union in eastern and southern Europe where the risks to EU security are highest" and where "better controls" could be "better policed".[33] However, this did not necessarily mean that industry favoured the introduction of EU-wide standards. Mr Semple, from the RHA, explained that where there are a multitude of border crossings, there would always be some areas that are weaker than others.[34] He told us that where problems have been identified, there should be an obligation on the Member State to improve its performance but that ultimately it would be down to the Member State to resource the policing of its borders.[35] The Minister acknowledged the historic problem of containers, trains and lorries not being properly checked at some EU entry points but expressed confidence in the security systems for freight coming into the UK.

18.  The Minister also expressed more general concerns about EU-level action on land transport security. In his view the introduction of "inappropriate pan-European requirements" must not risk undermining the "well-developed UK approach" to transport security.[36] Furthermore, he stated that:[37]

one would not want legislation flowing from Europe that created a common denominator that might bring up the requirements on some countries where the threats are far less than those facing this country, which might then have the knock-on effect of reducing the levels of sophistication that we have with our own system.


19.  The Commission's document sets out a number of areas on which work might be taken forward to further the overall aim of the document.[38] While the specific proposals were mostly lacking in detail, they provided sufficient clarity for witnesses to raise some general concerns, as described below.

Security of transport interchanges and mass transit security

20.  The Commission's document calls for the consideration of EU-level action to develop better integrated security at multi-modal interchanges. For example, it pointed out that the level of security practised at railway stations located at airports may be lower than that in the nearby airport terminals, yet an attack on an airport railway station would affect both rail services and airport operations.[39] The challenge of dealing with multi-modal transport hubs was identified by the British Transport Police (BTP) as a potential weakness of the current land transport security regime in the UK.[40] However, BTP also warned that "any promotion of the threats to transport [irrespective of mode] as a homogenous entity may have a detrimental effect on perceptions of risk and attitudes towards risk tolerance".[41] We recommend that the Government explain what action it is taking to improve the security of the UK's multi-modal transport hubs.

Rail security

21.  On the subject of rail security, the Commission's document stated that consideration should be given to setting EU-wide security standards for high-speed rail networks and to having EU legislation that requires security features to be incorporated into the design of rail and subway rolling stock and infrastructure. Gareth Williams, from Eurostar, agreed that commonality of standards was helpful, but explained that he did not see this as a matter for EU-wide legislation.[42] ATOC and Network Rail also did not support the development of legislation in areas such as security standards for high-speed rail.[43] The DfT informed us that the proposal to incorporate security features into the design of railway rolling stock is something that it sees merit in doing. At the EU-level the DfT considers that this would be best delivered through updates to the EU-wide standards found in the Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSIs).[44] Furthermore, the DfT has also issued guidance to ensure proportionate security features are incorporated into the design of railway infrastructure in the UK. We conclude that while there is some support for commonality of rail standards, there is no appetite for further EU legislation in this area. We note that the DfT considers that EU-level action would be best delivered through updates to the EU-wide standards found in the Technical Specifications for Interoperability. We recommend that the Government seek further information from the Commission and report back to us on the exact nature of potential legislative changes that are discussed in the Commission's document.

Training of staff and planning for the aftermath of an incident

22.  In order to ensure a skilled EU-wide cadre of security staff in land transport, the Commission's document suggests bringing forward mandatory requirements for training of security staff, as well as mandatory security awareness training for everyone working in the land transport domain. Furthermore, a legal requirement that all staff working in the public transport domain have basic training to deal with the initial aftermath of a major incident was considered "desirable".[45] Mr Lovegrove, from ATOC, explained that existing arrangements for the training of staff in the railway industry worked well and were driven by the National Railways Security Programme (NRSP).[46] The NRSP is issued to train operating companies, Network Rail and others with direct involvement in railway security and provides details of both mandatory and best practice standards for the industry. Mr Williams, from Eurostar, added that its plans for responding to threats, including in relation to the training of staff, were already regulated by the DfT.[47] Despite existing arrangements the BTP maintained that ensuring there was a consistent level of training remains a weakness of the current rail security regime.[48] The RHA gave an overview of views from the road haulage and distribution sector, explaining that any mandatory requirements were likely to be disproportionate to the threat.[49]

23.  The proposals for mandatory requirements for training are not supported by either the rail or road haulage and distribution sectors. However, despite existing arrangements, concerns remain about the consistency of staff training, particularly in the rail sector. We recommend that the DfT work with the rail industry and other relevant stakeholders to address these concerns. In the first instance, the DfT should review the mandatory and best practice standards relating to training requirements in the National Railway Security Programme.

Technology and equipment

24.  The Commission's document proposes the use of common standards and certification processes for security equipment. The suggestion is made that manufacturers are more likely to invest in research for new security equipment to a specific regulatory standard that is mandated, as this would provide a guaranteed market.[50] The RHA disputed the accuracy of this view and argued that:[51]

Pre-defined standards risk becoming quickly out of date […] and mandating their use risks large scale imposition on operations to which they are irrelevant or not cost-effective. The proposed approach risks stifling innovation and moving the emphasis from what is needed to what is regulated.

We recognise that the development of new security equipment will be driven by a number of factors, including commercial needs and regulatory standards. We recommend that further work is undertaken to determine appropriate action for encouraging the development of new security equipment. This is something that we would like to see the advisory groups on land transport security (discussed later in this report) take forward.

Research on transport security

25.  The Commission's document identifies investment in research as an area in which there is a "force-multiplier" effect of acting together, rather than as individual Member States. The document states that it is important that the EU-wide "Horizon 2020" Framework Programme for Research and Innovation allows for security-related research to remain closely linked to needs and developments in transport security policy.[52] Closer alignment between transport security policy and the large sums of money allocated to research was welcomed by the Government and others.[53] We support the closer alignment between transport security policy and funding available for EU research.

Better communication and sharing of classified information

26.  The commitment, and willingness, of national authorities to share information relating to types of security risk, both terrorist and criminal, was described by the Commission as being of major importance. It was suggested that the structured mechanism for the exchange of threat and risk information that is currently functioning in relation to air cargo and mail security should be broadened to land transport. While there were doubts raised that there would be, for example, "a ready read-across from air cargo terrorist risk to either terrorist or criminal activity relating to road haulage",[54] the general exchange of threat information was considered by the Government to be a good thing. The DfT explained that the EU would be making a positive contribution by "bringing Member States together to share information and best practice".[55] In general terms, the sharing of best practice and information was favoured by the Government as an alternative to EU-wide legislation.[56] We heard widespread support for this approach from industry.[57] There is a potential role for the advisory groups on land transport security to assist in the dissemination of good practice and the sharing of information, this is discussed in further detail later in this report.[58]

Security of the supply chain

27.  The Commission's document suggests that consideration should be given to having an EU standard for end-to-end cargo security for transport operators. Such a standard could take the form either of a binding requirement for the transport of particular types of cargo or a "Quality Standard" which transport providers would choose to adhere to. Mr Welsh, from the FTA, explained that there were already a number of measures in place addressing supply chain security.[59] Chris Dugdale, from the Rail Freight Group, described in further detail the current system of using seals to secure containers and random intelligence-led checks on consignments.[60] Mr Welsh said that the seal system appeared to work well.[61] The RHA argued that the Commission's document provided "no evidence that the absence of common EU rules for supply chain security creates a weakness". The RHA added that there was a high risk that the financial and administrative burden, which may prove unaffordable to SMEs, would be added for little or no benefit.[62]

Secure lorry parking

28.  While the Commission's document describes EU action in the provision of secure lorry parking as "desirable", the RHA countered that the EU has already established a standard for rating the security and comfort of truckstops and that no further EU involvement was necessary.[63] Industry representatives sought instead stronger intervention at the level of local and national government, particularly to help overcome the often considerable local opposition met in creating secure parking sites.[64] We recommend that the Government work with representatives from the road haulage and distribution sector to identify and overcome barriers to the provision of secure lorry parking sites.

Cybercrime against transport

29.  As noted in the Commission's document it is important, given its dependence on computerised management systems, to ensure that transport is resilient to cyber-attacks. The document stated that "if appropriate - and following the forthcoming Commission European Strategy for Internet Security - targeted actions for the transport sector should be considered".[65] There was recognition from industry of the importance of being alert to new threats such as cybercrime and we were informed that such threats were being looked at.[66] The DfT accepted that there was merit in exploring pan-European arrangements for dealing with cybercrime.[67] We recommend that the DfT update us in 12 months on its progress in exploring pan-European arrangements for dealing with the threat of cybercrime against land-based transport networks.

Inland waterway transport

30.  The Commission's document notes that the inland waterway sector has no security requirements at the EU-level and that "this needs to be addressed". We note the Government's comments to the European Scrutiny Committee, that the justification for further EU intervention in respect of inland waterways is not clear. The lack of detail in this section of the Commission's document seems to support the Government's contention and make it difficult to comment further on this subject.

International activity

31.   The importance of ensuring that transport operations can function as seamlessly as possible when crossing borders was noted in the Commission's document. From the GB perspective, the main land-based cross-border service is the Eurostar rail service. Eurostar explained that it was in broad agreement with the Commission's general assessment that there is today no coherent approach to land transport security in the EU. Moreover, it considered that there was "a case for increased coordination of security measures at EU-level, at the very least for cross-border services, to reduce the costs of having to satisfy multiple and often inconsistent national regulations".[68] However, while Eurostar supported the idea of further EU-level discussions to improve the current situation, Mr Williams considered that there was no need for further EU-wide legislation and that he favoured the extension to other parties of established ways of working.[69] We recommend that the Government, in consultation with industry, should consider the viability of proposals to increase coordination of security measures in relation to cross-border services, as an alternative to further EU legislation.


32.  The Commission's document also explained that an Advisory Group on Land Transport Security would provide a forum in which representatives from Member States could discuss with the Commission topics where there would be added value for action at the EU-level. This newly-formed group would be invited to examine all the potential areas for development highlighted in the Commission's document. The Member States' Advisory Group would also be complemented by a Stakeholder Advisory Group on Land Transport Security, comprising key stakeholder organisations representing transport operators, transport infrastructure managers, equipment manufacturers and transport user organisations at EU-level.[70]

33.  We previously noted that the sharing of best practice and information was favoured by the Government as an alternative to EU-wide legislation and that this approach had widespread support from industry (see paragraph 26). Both advisory groups could provide a means of sharing experience and good practice between different organisations and countries; they might also help to expand knowledge of both threats and responses.[71] We noted concerns from Mr Semple, from the RHA, that SMEs should be represented in the stakeholder group, and from Mr Guy, from Network Rail, that he would like to see "clear lines of communication between the two groups".[72] While the DfT considered that the group on land transport security established by the Commission could be a useful forum, Mr Cook expressed some caution and explained that these groups would bring greater advantage by sharing best practice rather than by proposing legislation.[73] We agree with the Government and industry that the new advisory groups on land transport security could be a useful forum for exchanging information and sharing good practice. We recommend that the Government provide further information on who should be included in these two groups, the actual composition of members on them, and on lines of communication between them.

26   European Commission, Staff Working Document on Transport Security, 31 May 2012, (SWD(2012) 143 final) Back

27   European Commission, Staff Working Document on Transport Security, 31 May 2012, (SWD(2012) 143 final) Back

28   Ev 27, para 18 [Department for Transport]; Ev w2 [British Transport Police]; and Ev 19 [Road Haulage Association] Back

29   Q 64 [Gareth Williams, Eurostar] Back

30   Q 91 [Rt Hon Simon Burns MP] Back

31   Q 91 and Q 93 [Rt Hon Simon Burns MP] Back

32   European Commission, Staff Working Document on Transport Security, 31 May 2012, (SWD(2012) 143 final) Back

33   Q 13 [Chris Welsh, Freight Transport Association]; and Ev 16, para 4 [Freight Transport Association] Back

34   Q 18 [Jack Semple, Road Haulage Association] Back

35   Q 18 [Jack Semple, Road Haulage Association] Back

36   Q 91 [Rt Hon Simon Burns MP] Back

37   Q 94 [Rt Hon Simon Burns MP] Back

38   European Commission, Staff Working Document on Transport Security, 31 May 2012, (SWD(2012) 143 final) Back

39   European Commission, Staff Working Document on Transport Security, 31 May 2012, (SWD(2012) 143 final) Back

40   Ev w2 [British Transport Police] Back

41   Ev w2 [British Transport Police] Back

42   Q 60 and Q 64 [Gareth Williams, Eurostar] Back

43   Ev 22, para 3.3 [Association of Train Operating Companies and Network Rail] Back

44   Ev 27, para 24 [Department for Transport] Back

45   European Commission, Staff Working Document on Transport Security, 31 May 2012, (SWD(2012) 143 final) Back

46   Q 67 [Peter Lovegrove, Association of Train Operating Companies] Back

47   Q 69 [Gareth Williams, Eurostar] Back

48   Ev w2 [British Transport Police] Back

49   Ev 19 [Road Haulage Association] Back

50   European Commission, Staff Working Document on Transport Security, 31 May 2012, (SWD(2012) 143 final) Back

51   Ev 19 [Road Haulage Association] Back

52   European Commission, Staff Working Document on Transport Security, 31 May 2012, (SWD(2012) 143 final) Back

53   Ev 27, para 19 [Department for Transport]; and Ev w7, para 7.2 [ITS (UK)] Back

54   Ev 20 [Road Haulage Association] Back

55   Ev 27, para 23 [Department for Transport] Back

56   Ev 28, para 27 [Department for Transport] Back

57   Q 20 [Jack Semple, Road Haulage Association]; Q 21 [Chris Welsh, Freight Transport Association]; Q 49 [Peter Lovegrove, Association of Train Operating Companies]; Q 59 [Peter Guy, Network Rail]; and Q 60 [Gareth Williams, Eurostar] Back

58   See paragraph 33 Back

59   Q 23 [Chris Welsh, Freight Transport Association] Back

60   Qq 29-36 [Chris Dugdale, Rail Freight Group] Back

61   Q 34 [Chris Welsh, Freight Transport Association] Back

62   Ev 20 [Road Haulage Association] Back

63   Qq 25-27 [Jack Semple, Road Haulage Association]; and Ev 20 [Road Haulage Association] Back

64   Ev 17, para 12 [Freight Transport Association] ; and Ev 20 [Road Haulage Association] Back

65   European Commission, Staff Working Document on Transport Security, 31 May 2012, (SWD(2012) 143 final) Back

66   Q 86 [Peter Lovegrove, Association of Train Operating Companies]; and Q 88 [Peter Guy, Network Rail] Back

67   Q 96 [Andrew Cook, DfT]; and Ev 27, para 23 [Department for Transport] Back

68   Ev 25, para 8 [Eurostar] Back

69   Ev 25, para 8 [Eurostar]; and Q 60 and Q 81 [Gareth Williams, Eurostar] Back

70   European Commission, Staff Working Document on Transport Security, 31 May 2012, (SWD(2012) 143 final) Back

71   Ev 22, para 3.2 [Association of Train Operating Companies and Network Rail] Back

72   Q 38 [Jack Semple, Road Haulage Association]; and Q 82 [Peter Guy, Network Rail] Back

73   Qq 110-11 [Andrew Cook, DfT]; and Ev 27, para 19 [Department for Transport] Back

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