Commons Gate

Transport Security (HC 637-i)

Transport Committee 2 Nov 2005

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2 November 2005

Transport Security (HC 637-i)

Evidence given by Rt. Hon Alistair Darling MP, Ms Niki Tompkinson and Mr John Grubb.

Q59 Mr. Eric Martlew: I have been very impressed with your presentation and it appears you are upping security especially on the Underground and we talked about the new facilities being tested out at Paddington. If you look at the terrorists we are dealing with, they go for the soft target, and I am not saying you should not be doing this, but I have a concern that perhaps too much of the concentration is on London and on the Underground. We have a Metro in Newcastle and a tram system in Manchester. If the terrorists are going to go for the soft option, surely they will move away from the Underground, which is fine and I do not disagree with that, and they will look at these other vulnerable areas. A perfect example is that everybody has buses and there was a bomb on a bus.

Mr Darling: I was conscious just before you spoke that this has been a very London-centric discussion so far and it is important to emphasise everything we have said so far applies to the transport network the length and breadth of the country. Obviously in aviation, which we touched on with Mr Donaldson, once you are in the system, you are in the system, so we are interested whether you get on at Heathrow or get on at Stornoway. In relation to the Underground system, the Glasgow Underground is regulated; it is a fairly recent thing we have introduced but it is treated in the same way as the London one in terms of the attention we give to it. As is publicly known, there have been terrorist activities in cities outside London and we do work both as a department and also as Transec within the Department for Transport with local authorities and with police outside London. You are absolutely right, you cannot assume that any part of the transport network is immune from attack, you have to proceed on the basis there is a risk right across the network no matter where it is. Indeed some of the measures we are currently contemplating in relation to railway stations will cover stations well away from London.

Q60 Mr. Eric Martlew: Just on the bus side, the point was made before about attacks in Israel and we did have one of the four attacks on a bus, is there enough effort going into that?

Mr Darling: It is something again we keep constantly under review. For example, a few years ago CCTV on buses was pretty rare, but London will have very shortly all its buses with CCTV and outside London increasingly new buses come fitted with CCTV. I am bound to say it is mainly to stop hooligans and vandals but it serves the same purpose. We are acutely aware of the risk. We are also aware, and this comes back to the discussion with Mrs Ellman and Mrs Dunwoody at the start, it would be rather difficult to screen everybody before they got on a bus. In Israel they have particular measures which include soldiers on buses but, as we can see, no matter what you do there will always be a risk.

Ms Tompkinson: On the point about what do we do to find out more about the whole question of suicide bombers and what can be done, that is very much a matter for the police and I know they have done a lot of work with colleagues overseas, and Israel is a case in point. We have spoken to Israeli counterparts briefly on this but there is a lot of work going on to look at suicide bombers which could manifest itself not just on the transport network. In terms of buses, we have recently put out some written guidance to all bus operators which is based very much on the programmes we run on the rail and Underground networks, so they have some security guidance and best practice to work to. I think we will be doing more of that over the coming months.

Q61 Mr. Eric Martlew: Earlier, you said your guidance was instructions, that you had the right to do that, is that what you are doing with the bus companies?

Ms Tompkinson: No, we do not have powers to give instructions to bus companies, whereas we do on the rail and Underground, and we have taken powers to be able to extend that to the light rail systems, to the tram networks.

Q62 Mr. Eric Martlew: Are you thinking of extending it to buses as well?

Ms Tompkinson: We are certainly thinking about it, yes, we are.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

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On behalf of Eric Martlew, 3 Chatsworth Square Carlisle Cumbria CA1 1HB