Public transportation plays a significant role in the lives of people everywhere. However, in recent years, the transportation industry has become increasingly vulnerable to security risks.
Public transport is an attractive target as it is open and easily accessible by design. Unfortunately, such accessibility also creates security vulnerabilities. One of the greatest challenges is to protect railway stations; to protect customers/passengers, employees, trains and infrastructure from possible security threats.
Railway stations comprise of various outdoor and indoor areas, many of which are accessible at all hours of the day.
In contrast to other environments, security in public transport is to welcome people in – not to keep them out. Transport operators face the challenge to deliver a service that leaves customers feeling safe and secure in the train station while also making sure that anti-social behaviour is kept under control and that the train stations are pleasant and welcoming to all.
Some of the security and safety risks at a railway station can include vandalism and graffiti, theft, drug dealing, fire, and acts of terrorism.
Therefore, security plays an important role, but how much security is the right amount? And what should it look like?
Often when incidents occur at railway stations, they make a big headline story and induces more demands for safer stations, greater security, more cameras, more police and more money.
We are growing up in an ever more complex technological world, faster and smarter computers, more advanced security systems and cameras, but one asset that cannot be replaced is the human being, technology alone cannot replace company staff. Staff presence in the public transport environment is a paramount asset in the way customers perceive a public transport system.
Having competent staff in the public transport system improves the security perception and increases the confidence of passengers in the system. But does that necessarily require more staff? Or perhaps just different staff?
It is essential that transport operator staff, whether security, cleaning, service personnel or operational staff, are aware of the contribution they can make to the stations overall security.
Adequate policing and appropriate levels of physical security measures mitigate the risk of individuals or groups seeking to exploit the inherent vulnerabilities of public transport.
Two key roles in securing a train station are; to have direct, customer-facing staff presence, it also plays a critical component of customer satisfaction. There should also be a regular interaction between passengers and security officers, not only intervention in the case of problems.
The second role is to have a clear link between staff and procedures, technology and operations. Well trained staff are necessary to manage a public transport system with support from technical devices and well-designed processes.
Public transport security officers must be able to handle increasingly complex procedures and infrastructure: video surveillance systems, communication systems and devices, or evacuation procedures in complex surroundings under unclear and sometimes unpredictable circumstances.
Even the best technologies are useless if the staff are not adequately trained in the procedures.
It is clear that providing security in public transport is a unique challenge, security officers need to understand the operational environment, survey the situation and spot the unusual elements. The security officers should be able to manage conflicts and de-escalate delicate situations.
These complex responsibilities need excellent training. Experience shows that humans fall back on training when faced with abnormal or stressful situations and it is for this reason that investment in high-quality training for security is so important.
By careful staff selection and having the right staff with appropriate training is an important investment and will bring a great benefit for the operator, and with ongoing training will ensure that security officers are highly skilled.
Another key component of protecting any railway station is to have a law enforcement presence. But not only to be present but to work with the security team, to have established communication with station security.
Because railway stations and public transport systems have been the target of past terrorist attacks and as a public and open crowded environment means that security should be considered at the earliest stages of a new design or any refurbishment project.
So, by having a properly designed station, a strong staff presence that is well trained and a security team that are highly skilled, can accurately identify potential risks and can respond quickly would help greatly to protect railway stations.