3,000 undercover armed guards to patrol French trains

The terror attacks in France continue to have knock-on effects in terms of security with 3,000 plain-clothed SNCF train guards soon to become the latest law and order group to carry guns.

3,000 undercover armed guards to patrol French trains
Photo: AFP

After local police, off duty officers and security guards, plans have now been announced that will see plain clothes teams who patrol trains in France carrying guns.

The move, which was announced on Sunday by SNCF chief Guillaume Pepy, is in response to the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels.

Pepy announced that the budget for security on SNCF trains will increase by 50 percent to around €400 million.

More metal detector gates will be placed on platforms but the stand-out measure is the plan to arm 3,000 guards who patrol trains and platforms undercover on the country’s network.

They will supplement the security teams, who patrol in uniform on certain lines, notably on suburban train lines around Paris.

“These agents will be trained how to shoot,” said Pepy.

The move is similar to the “sky marshals”, plain clothes offices who are based on certain flights, particularly on US airlines.

It also comes after news that France has moved to arm more local police, gave off-duty officers the right to carry arms and is mulling a plan to allow private security guards to carry a weapon.

Guns in France: Now security guards could be armed

“SNCF is changing,” said Pépy. “We won’t take the train in the same way anymore.”

As well as the plain clothes guards, there will also be more security gates at platforms, despite critics having dismissed the measure as useless and pure “security theatre”. The metal detectors will be placed at Marseille as well as at stations in Paris like Montparnasse.

Despite the criticism, Pépy said it was out of the question that the gates set up on the platform of Gare du Nord for certain international trains would be taken down.

One of the criticisms with the plan was that the gates were not installed at stations in Amsterdam, Brussels or Cologne – the destinations for the trains – making the measure seem pointless, but Pépy insisted talks with foreign governments were underway.

SNCF guards will also be able to search through passengers’ luggage when they arrive at stations. Around 30 more sniffer dogs will be put into action at stations and SNCF will also boost its technology – notably CCTV cameras that can automatically detect suspicious behaviour.

France continues to roll out more CCTV cameras on its transport system with the region of Provence-Alpes-Côtes d’Azur already counting 40,000 on its train network.

A new law has also given SNCF powers to increase their internal security by allowing them to investigate staff suspected of being radicalized.

Around ten cases were identified last year.





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French trains ditch plastic water bottles

French national train operator SNCF has announced it will no longer sell water in plastic bottles on its services, saying the move would reduce the waste from roughly two million drinks.

French train bars will no longer be able to see plastic bottles of water.
French train bars will no longer be able to see plastic bottles of water. Photo: BERTRAND LANGLOIS / AFP.

The plastic packaging will be replaced with recyclable cardboard for still water and aluminium for sparkling.

“Plastic is no longer fantastic,” head of consumer travel operations at the SNCF, Alain Krakovitch, wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

France has gradually increased restrictions on single-use packaging to help reduce waste amid growing evidence about the impact of plastic on sea life in particular.

The government announced on Monday that plastic packaging will be banned for nearly all fruit and vegetables from January next year.

The environment ministry said that 37 percent of fruit and vegetables were sold with plastic packaging, and only the most fragile produce such as strawberries will be given an exemption on the ban until 2026.

“We use an outrageous amount of single-use plastic in our daily lives,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that it was working to cut back “the use of throwaway plastic and boost its substitution by other materials or reusable and recyclable packaging.”

Last year, France passed a wide-ranging “circular economy” law to combat waste that forbids retailers from destroying unsold clothes and will ban all single-use plastic containers by 2040.

Paris city authorities announced this week that they were aiming to eliminate all plastic from state day-care centres, canteens and retirement homes by 2026.