Station trial for anti-terror system

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The Independent Online

The workings of new high-tech security systems to detect would-be train terrorists were shown off today at Paddington station in London.

A seven-metre-long steel box has been erected next to Heathrow Express platforms at the west London station.

Inside the box is a millimetre wave scanner which can detect items concealed beneath clothes.

Next to it is a baggage-screening device, and the whole security box is to be tested for four weeks at Paddington starting from tomorrow.

The new systems were first announced last autumn by Transport Secretary Alistair Darling, and there will be further trials on the London Underground and at other mainline stations.

It will take passengers about 80 seconds to pass through the security box. During the trial at Paddington a small number of randomly-selected passengers will be asked to take part.

On entering the box they will pass into the scanner where they will place their feet on footmarks on the floor and raise their arms in the air. In the far corner of the box is a booth in which a screener sits, and this screener will receive a robot-like body image of the scanned passenger.

At the same time the passenger's bags will pass through an X-ray machine, and if necessary there will also be a body search of the passenger by hand.

A person cannot be identified from the image and the image is deleted when the next person enters the scanner. Male staff will work only with male passengers' images and female staff only with female passengers' images.

The trial tomorrow is being seen merely as a test of the equipment and not as a security measure as such, although it could lead to the use of the equipment as an anti-terrorist measure eventually.

Last November Mr Darling made it clear that it was not possible to introduce airport-style security on the railways and on London Underground because of the sheer weight of passenger numbers.

He told a transport conference in London in November: "You just simply couldn't have people queuing up for hours to get through - you would be doing the terrorists' job for them. What you can do is ask yourself whether, on a selective basis, at a point where it is appropriate, it could help to make things safer and reduce the risk.