From Sunday onwards any passengers taking a Thalys train at Gare du Nord to Belgium or Holland will have to pass through new airport style security gates.
The scanners, known as portiques are being installed in a bid to boost security on France’s international trains in the wake of the Paris terror attacks and the foiled shooting on an Amsterdam Paris train earlier this year.
While government minister Segolène Royal proudly opened the security gates for use this week, experts have dismissed the measure as pure “terror theatre”.
(Photo: Rory Mulholland)
One of the principle problems undermining the move is that the German, Belgian and Dutch authorities have refused to install the gates at their end of the line.
In Brussels for example, passengers face extra ticket checks and possible searches, rather than being forced to pass their bags through an x-ray machine.
The other, more worrying reason why experts believe the security gates won’t serve any real purpose other than reassurance, is that there are simply too many possible targets.
“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.
Huyge says part of the terrorists strategy is to disrupt people's daily lives by making them subject to extra security checks as well forcing governments to shell out on costly security measures.
The cost of the gates and security are estimated at €2.5 million a year each, but Sègolene Royal is even talking about extending the measure to cover France’s TGV and TER trains.
“Security has a cost but it has no price,” said Royal.
But train security expert Mark Smith from website Seat 61 said: “There is no logic in doing this for Thalys and not for the TGV to Lille sitting on the next platform – or the metro or RER trains underground, for that matter.
“So I think this is simply imposing a major inconvenience to reassure people – the usual phrase I believe is 'security theatre'.
“It shuts up those who demand that 'Something must be done' as the real fight against these terrorists happens behind the scenes, with intelligence-led policing.
'Anyone with an AK47 can still access the station itself – and the huddle of people waiting to go through 'security' makes an obvious target,” said Smith.
But author Huyge believes the 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 we know they are still going to do it.”