The UK Government wants to scan at least a quarter of rail and tube passengers for explosives, knives and guns to protect railways and London Underground from terrorists, a new government proposal has revealed.
The Home Office has published details of what it wants scanners to detect and how they should work, and is asking for advice on the technology available.
“The main focus is on the detection of explosives and weapons on people and in bags,” the research stated, suggesting that technologies, including X-ray, magnetometry, vapour and trace methods, electromagnetic radiation and ultrasound, could be used.
According to Sky News, the researchers also want to know whether wheelchairs, false limbs, crutches, pushchairs and bikes could be scanned and whether so-called dirty bombs could be spotted.
Crucially, the document insists the scanning must be done without holding anyone up, the report said. ”Any screening methodologies proposed must not delay the passengers any more than they are currently as they pass through the station,” the proposal stated.
According to the report, the Department for Transport, which is also involved in the project, said it wanted to balance ‘the need to protect passengers with the need to travel freely and easily on rail networks’. But a leading detection company told Sky News that the government’s wish-list is unlikely to be achieved in the foreseeable future.
Kromek, in County Durham, designs and builds cutting edge scanners, including one that can that can differentiate between water and paint thinner held in a metal container. Commercial director Nigel Day said even with predicted screening technology advances, the quickest security check inevitably involves some kind of delay, the report said.
“There would be too many people trying to move too quickly through a security checkpoint with various different items,” he explained. He even predicted that airport screening, which is the main focus of scanning technology development, is unlikely to be transferrable to the rail system, the report said
“We’ve already seen the challenges in aviation security,” he pointed out, adding: “They’re only going to be magnified in rail transport”.