Armed undercover agents to patrol French trains
Armed security forces dressed as civilians will be patrolling passenger trains in France as one of a series of new security measures in the country, the head of the national railway operator SNCF says.
Guillaume Pepy said on iTele TV on Sunday that the plain-clothes officers, chosen from the SNCF’s 3,000 security agents, will be allowed to use their weapons if necessary.
At present, guards patrolling the trains wear navy-blue uniforms embellished with the company logo, and carry visible weapons.
Among other measures, a team of special agents will monitor some of the 40,000 train station cameras for suspicious behavior, and arms and explosive detectors will be installed in some train stations.
Pepy also said that the SNCF has increased its security budget by 50 percent to around €400 million (USD 455 million) to finance its new security measures. “The SNCF is changing. We will no longer take the train in the same way. Everyone should be able to take the train without having to worry.”
The measures are the direct consequences of the terrorist attacks that left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded in and around Paris in November 2015.
In a foiled attack in August of the same year, passengers of a train traveling from the Dutch capital city of Amsterdam to the French capital were able to overcome a heavily armed man, narrowly avoiding a potentially deadly attack.
Last month’s raid on the subway in the Belgium capital Brussels has also raised concerns about rail security and the ease of smuggling weapons and explosives onto trains.
France has been under a state of emergency over the past months, giving authorities extra powers to keep people in their homes without trial and search houses without judicial approval.