• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3
Security in France
French transport is vulnerable even with 1,600 more police
Photo: AFP

French transport is vulnerable even with 1,600 more police

Ben McPartland · 23 Mar 2016, 13:39

Published: 23 Mar 2016 13:39 GMT+01:00

The response from the French government was rapid.

Within hours of bombs ripping through the departure area of Zeventem international airport in Brussels and Maelbeek metro station interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve laid out the latest French response to prevent similar attacks in France.

A further 1,600 police and gendarmes to be mobilised, including 400 in the Ile-de-France region around Paris.

The extra reinforcements will be used to boost security at France’s borders as well as air, sea and rail transport hubs, like Charles de Gaulle airport and Gare du Nord rail station. Soldiers will also be used to reinforce police patrols.

Cazeneuve also said access to public areas of transport hubs will be restricted to those with tickets or valid ID and checks and searches of passengers “will also become systematic”.

'Nobody stops you'

But on Wednesday the day after the Brussels bombings, apart from the increased police presence, it appeared to be business as usual at Gare du Nord station and Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.

The Local’s Louise Nordstrom said groups of police could be seen standing together at the transport hubs, but there was no sign of passengers being searched or asked for tickets or ID before entering.

At the Charles de Gaulle airport, Marjorie, a 68-year-old retiree from Burgundy who was travelling to Bristol, said she was surprised to find that there weren't more checks when entering the airport.

"You just walk in with your bag and there's nobody stopping you or anything. I thought there would at least be people by the doors to check you," she told The Local.

Even if the new measures were in place will they really make it safer for people travelling around France?

"Aviation and public transport in general remain an attractive target for terrorist groups. The risk can never be 100 percent eliminated," Ben Vogel, editor of IHS Jane's Airport Review told AFP.

The challenge of stopping an attack is greater when the perpetrators target unsecured areas such as departure or check-in areas, he said.

'Terrorists will simply choose their target'

Even if it may not reduce the risk, reacting to a terror attack by boosting security is still the common tactic of governments.

Following the foiled gun attack on a Thalys train from Amsterdam to Paris in August the French government decided to install metal detector “portiques” at the entrance to the platforms in Gare du Nord.

However expert at the time dismissed the expensive move as worthless and pure “security theatre”.

“The terrorists will say ok, if you are going to control security on the trains, then we will just target the Metro or the buses. They can make their choice of target. I’m afraid it will still happen,” French terror expert Francois-Bernard Huyge told The Local.

Yet Huyge accepts the French government’s hands are effectively tied.

“Security is based on the principle of precaution. If you are an official or company chief you can’t take the risk of something happening because if it does, you will be crucified,” said Huyge. “We know it’s useless, but they are still going to do it.”

Interior Minister Cazeneuve himself accepted there were insurmountable logistical problems when it came to securing transport hubs.

"If you set up checks at the entrance to airports you going to clog up the airports, you are going to make it impossible for the economy to work," Cazeneuve said.

"If you create queues in front of airports, you also create targets for terrorists," he added.

'More security will make them reflect'

However terror experts and French lawmakers insisted there were benefits to the security measures when it came to stopping an attack.

“If we increase the difficulty for the terrorist to commit the act then firstly it causes him to reflect on what he’s doing,” security expert Jean-Claude Allard, head of research at the IRIS think tank told The Local.

“It’s just like preventing burglars from entering a house. The extra security makes them hesitate and if they hesitate, they may have to come up with a new plan and do more research and this might lead them into the hands of intelligence services,” said Allard.

French MP Gilles Savary, proponent of a new transport security law passed by parliament this month, which pushed for more random controls and searched of passengers, said the aim was to "tighten the net as far as possible” but accepted that “someone can always get through".

Story continues below…

"If Zaventem was an inaccessible bunker they would have hit a market in Brussels. So we have a choice between 'bunkerization' and daily life, and between the two there is a risk," he told AFP.

'Public could hold the key'

Passengers travelling through Gare du Nord and Charles de Gaulle airports on Wednesday were well aware of that risk, but supported the increased police presence.

One Eurostar traveller at Gare du Nord, who asked not to be named, told The Local that although the attacks wouldn't prevent her from using public transport, she said she feels increasingly worried about the potential risks in doing so.

"I'm more careful now, I'm being more aware," she said, noting that the upped police presence was reassuring.

And another passenger about to take a flight from Charles de Gaulle airport said: "I think it's been shown that they can prevent attacks. I do believe they prevent a lot of things that they never tell us about.”

Ironically it may be the public themselves who are the greatest weapon in preventing terror attacks, hence why the government has repeatedly asked them to be on the guard and report anything suspicious.

"The biggest danger is to lower our guard," French senator Francois Bonhomme, who wrote a recent report on transport security told Liberation newspaper.

"From this point of view, the attention and cooperation of citizens is essential."

 

 

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

Today's headlines
Hollande says Brexit won't change Channel migrant deal
The Calais Jungle. Photo: AFP

President Francois Hollande said on Wednesday that the Brexit vote won't change border agreements between France and Britain.

Frenchman sentenced to jail time for burying dog alive
Photo: Pedro Dinis/Facebook

A man who buried his disabled dog alive, sparking social media fury in France, has been handed a jail sentence.

Le Thought du Jour
Post-Brexit: Could it benefit France to see the UK suffer?
Will Hollande benefit from the mess left behind by Cameron. Photo: AFP

The referendum result may have boosted Marine Le Pen and the growing anti-EU movement in France, but what has happened since may have taken the wind out their sails.

France 'probes new death threats' against Charlie Hebdo

A special French police unit has launched investigations after Charlie Hebdo magazine was subject to new death threats, according to reports in France.

Paris commuters face summer of transport headaches
Photo: AFP

Here are the train lines to avoid this summer if you're in Paris.

What's on in France: Eleven great things to do in July
Check out Provence's Lavender festivals in July. Photo: Ming-Yen Hsu/Flickr

We reckon July is by far the best month to be in France. Here's why.

Brexit
France wants Paris to profit from London's losses
Photo: AFP

Paris must take London's place as Europe's financial powerhouse once Brexit happens, a French minister says.

French foie gras industry warns of Christmas shortages
Photo: AFP

The foie gras industry in France is struggling to digest the consequences of the bird flu scare in its heartland.

Paris to honour Ireland's two sets of 'wonderful' fans
Photo: AFP

Fans of Ireland's "Boys in Green" and Northern Ireland's Green and White Army are to be given a special medal for bringing some joy to Euro 2016.

€5 to the coast? Ouibus rolls out new summer lines
Photo: Ouibus

Fancy heading to the coast for just €5 this summer?

Sponsored Article
Education abroad: How to find an international school
New app aims to rid Paris pavements of dog poo
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Society
No more plastic bags! See what changes in France from July 2016
National
Mixed reaction from the French as UK votes for Brexit
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
How Brexit could now scupper that dream move to France
Sponsored Article
Avoid hidden fees when sending money overseas
Brexit limbo: What happens next for Brits in France?
Gallery
Ten reasons why you should think about becoming French
Analysis & Opinion
Brexit: Life for Brits in France 'will get more complicated'
Culture
20 English words that 'should be banished' from French
National
Best Briehaviour: A guide to French cheese etiquette
Features
And the best city in France for expats to live in is...?
Society
Forget bikes, Paris is set to roll out scooter rentals
National
'We fear for our safety': French police feel the strain
Lifestyle
Why Rennes (and not Paris) is the best city in France for expats to live
National
Why are the French losing appetite for baguettes?
Lifestyle
Naturism booms in France as young eager to ditch clothes
Lifestyle
Is working life better in London or Paris?
National
Dear Americans: Please come to Paris
National
It's official (kind of): French work fewest hours in EU
And the best football fans of Euro 2016 in France are?
National
Paris has wettest spring in 100 years and it's hitting morale
Police murders remind France of complexity of terror threat
National
IN PICTURES: Labour law protests in Paris turn ugly
National
Double murder just latest jihadist attack on French police and soldiers
2,762
jobs available