Is it pos­si­ble to pro­tect a sub­way sys­tem?

The New Zealand Herald - - WORLD - Amanda Erick­son

As the Lon­don Tube at­tack re­minds us, pub­lic tran­sit is a plum tar­get for ter­ror­ists.

It’s hard to se­cure (un­like air­ports, most cities can’t set up mas­sive check­points and bag scans) and easy to ac­cess. It’s also, quite of­ten, packed.

That might ex­plain why there have been at least 387 at­tacks on trains, buses and pas­sen­ger fer­ries in North Amer­ica and Europe since 1970. South Asia has faced 1287 pub­lic tran­sit as­saults; there have been 801 in the Mid­dle East.

Cities em­ploy dif­fer­ent se­cu­rity strate­gies.

Bei­jing shifts 10 mil­lion pas­sen­gers daily. Af­ter a ter­ror­ist at­tack in western China in 2014, rid­ers were forced to line up for a sys­tem that re­sem­bled air­port check-in. Rid­ers and their bags went through metal de­tec­tors.

Lon­don has pi­o­neered anti-ter­ror in­fra­struc­ture. For ex­am­ple, the city has mostly done away with metal garbage bins, which could cre­ate deadly shrap­nel if a bomb was planted in­side. Is­rael makes use of metal de­tec­tors and X-ray ma­chines at some bus sta­tions. Buses, too, are bul­let-re­sis­tant. Some also come with GPS track­ing sys­tems and video cam­eras so army of­fi­cials can hear what’s go­ing on in an emer­gency.

In New York, ex­tra po­lice of­fi­cers and state troop­ers pa­trol crowded tran­sit stops. Sus­pi­cious pack­ages are now reg­u­larly in­ves­ti­gated and X-rayed and pas­sen­gers’ bags are sub­ject to ran­dom searches.

But ex­perts say bring­ing air­line-style se­cu­rity to US sub­ways would be vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble, and the above mea­sures would be use­less against sui­cide bombers.

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