Anti-terror scanning tech tested on London commuters

High-tech body-scanning trial gets underway at Paddington station
Written by Andy McCue, Contributor on

High-tech body-scanning trial gets underway at Paddington station

Trials of airport-style body-scanning technology and high-tech CCTV systems are to begin at London's Paddington railway station from Thursday this week as part of the government's attempts to reduce the risk of terrorist bomb attacks on the capital's transport network.

The four-week trial, announced by the government last year following the 7 July suicide bomb attacks in London, will involve passengers using the Heathrow Express rail link from the airport to Paddington station and will be voluntary.

Passengers who agree to be screened at Paddington during the trial will pass through a metal box containing a millimetre wave-imaging technology that can detect items such as guns, ammunition or bombs hidden beneath clothing.

The checks will be carried out by armed police and are expected to take no longer than just over a minute each. Police can increase or reduce the number of checks according to the security threat level.

Luggage will also be screened, using a traditional x-ray machine, while a new high-tech CCTV camera system is being tested which alerts security staff to unattended luggage or suspicious behaviour by passengers.

Transport Secretary Alistair Darling has already ruled out installing this kind of technology across the whole transport network because of the cost and disruption to commuters but he claims the scanners could be effective in limited deployments at strategic points on the network.

The New York Metropolitan Transport Authority has also recently invested $212m in upgrading its security and surveillance systems for the city's subway network. Thousands of cameras and sensors will be installed at platforms and subway stations as part of a sophisticated electronic surveillance and threat detection infrastructure, while mobile phone coverage will be extended underground across the public transport network to aid communications in any emergency situation.

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