Tighter security after train attack

Random baggage checks, more police patrols and a nationwide phone number are among the measures announced

THE SNCF is reinforcing its security measures after Friday's shooting on a Thalys train bound for Paris which injured three people.

Random luggage checks "are being considered", SNCF president Guillaume Pépy said in an interview with a Sunday newspaper, and staffing will be increased at the rail operator's safety call centre.

However the SNCF has ruled out airport-style security gates at stations - on the grounds that the measure is "unrealistic" given the sheer number of people who use the French rail service every day.

Extra signs will be put on trains and at stations urging passengers to remain vigilant and passengers can alert the SNCF to anything suspicious using the phone number 3117, which will now be run by a team of about 40 experts in rail security, who will assess the danger and call police where necessary.

Pépy, who called short his holiday in Greece after hearing of the Thalys shooting, told Le Journal du Dimanche: "The only response to a terrorist attack, whether it's on a train or in the street, is to work with police and the intelligence services."

Patrols of railway stations by police and army officers will be reinforced - as part of the ongoing Plan Vigipirate which has been on a higher level since January's terror attacks in Paris.

Police union spokesman Christophe Rouget said that while international rail terminals could install tougher security, suburban and TER trains were more difficult and "it is impossible to have a completely secure rail network".

Socialist senator Luc Carvounas has asked prime minister Manuel Valls to set up a parliamentary committee to look at new security measures for the SNCF in light of Friday's attack.

French police are questioning a 25-year-old Moroccan, Ayoub El-Kahzzani, over the shooting, which occurred as an Amsterdam-to-Paris Thalys train carrying 554 passengers was passing through Belgium. He can be held for four days without being charged.

The gunman, who was carrying a Kalashnikov rifle, an automatic pistol and a box cutter knife, was restrained and held on the floor by passengers.

Three Americans and a British man who helped prevent the attack are due to meet President Hollande at the Elysée on Monday, where they will receive the légion d'honneur. A French passenger who is believed to be the first person to intervene wishes to remain anonymous.