Secure stations

Source: RTM Aug/Sep 17

Gary Heward, director at MFD International and a security consultant and member of the Register of Security Engineers and Specialists, managed by the Institution of Civil Engineers on behalf of the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure, considers the role counter-terrorism plays in station design.

Many major stations may be perceived as very open and welcoming environments for the travelling public, with an ever-expanding choice of retail outlets, cafés and bars making them something more than just a place one passes through. Equally, these crowded places are also attractive to the opportunist criminal and, worst still, those with murderous intent. The UK rail infrastructure has always focused on the welfare, health and safety of the travelling public and those operating the network. Less well known is the application of a palette of security measures which have evolved over many years in line with the increased security threat to the travelling public and the railway infrastructure. This palette of measures encompasses both the operational procedures and the physical security measures, many of which are not visible to those who use the nation’s rail network. All station upgrades include physical security measures appropriate and proportional to the perceived threat, and in accordance with DfT security guidance. 

In 2010 the government published its National Security Strategy, which reiterated that the international terrorist threat to the UK is a tier one risk, meaning it is a part of the group of highest priority risk for UK national security taking account of both the likelihood and impact. Protecting the travelling public is therefore vital for the foreseeable future, and is the responsibility of all. Government departments, the security agencies, British Transport Police (BTP), transport operators, planners and designers all have a key role to play.  

There is considerable scope in the design and planning of station infrastructure to include proven and effective protective security measures that will prevent, mitigate or deter attacks from terrorists using person-borne or vehicle-borne explosive devices or other methodologies. 

It is also recognised that security is only one element in station design. It is important that a holistic approach is applied which also takes account of other considerations including passenger access, for the use of people with a full range of disabilities; health and safety; creating places that people enjoy/are visually stimulating; and making sure somewhere is functionally useable. These physical security needs have been encompassed in a joint government agency guidance document produced by the DfT in 2012 entitled ‘Security in Design of Stations (SIDOS) guide’. 

This guide is intended for anyone involved in commissioning, planning, designing and managing new or major redevelopments of stations, and aims to provide increased protection to persons using railway stations by design in proportionate security measures from the initial concept stage, rather than leaving it to the all too often afterthought. This document states all designers, architects and engineers should agree with the client (who in turn will consult with DfT and BTP) what counter-terrorism measures are appropriate at a specific station, before any or all of the recommendations within a programme/project are finalised. Hence the importance of security synergies between countering crime and terrorism. The work to reduce crime at stations will also benefit the aims of counter-terrorism and vice versa. 

Typical physical security measures encompass the following requirements: 

  • To minimise the effects of an explosion, considering structural robustness, and minimising the use of glass as a cladding material
  • Hostile Vehicle Mitigation (HVM) to the station approaches considering buses, taxis ranks and passenger drop-off/pick-up, arrangements for emergency vehicle and maintenance access through the HVM barrier line
  • Site layout and its facilities. This includes the protection of critical equipment and assets, staff and public parking arrangements and their proximity to the station, fenced perimeters, lighting provision, CCTV coverage and integrated access control to all non-public areas 

The planning and designing of physical security also necessitates many non-security considerations particular to the station environment, such as compliance with the Equality Act 2010, applications for listed building consent and conservation concerns, and health and safety and railway industry standards. 

Since its introduction, the SIDOS guide has encouraged designers to introduce physical security measures with an aspiration to enhance the safety, aesthetics, function and accessibility of the public environment in a holistic manner. In my opinion, examples at stations such as King’s Cross, London Bridge and Birmingham New Street demonstrate the success of security design at stations. 

Operationally, the success of physical measures is coupled with the DfT’s nationwide campaign to encourage train passengers and station visitors to report unusual items or behaviour under the strapline, ‘See it. Say it. Sorted’. Quoting the BTP’s text number 61016, it promotes awareness of the vital role the public can play in keeping themselves and others safe. It also sends a clear message to anyone threatening the security of the rail network that there are thousands of pairs of eyes and ears ready to report any potential threat, with rail staff and BTP ready to respond and to sort it.

Crime Prevention & Passenger Safety

“There is considerable scope in the design and planning of station infrastructure to include proven and effective protective security measures”

For more information

The SIDOS guide can be accessed at:



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