Station security in the UK has traditionally been concerned with graffiti, theft and personal safety, but the terrorist attacks on London’s transport system in 2005 and similar events globally have redefined what we understand by the term ‘security’. However, unlike the perimeter security model applied to air travel, public land transportation is typically an open system, unsuited to individual ID checks, passenger scanning and baggage inspection. From an engineering perspective, this provides an interesting challenge: how can we design railway stations to be inherently more resilient to potential terrorist threats without compromising passenger privacy, travel time and cost?

Researchers from the University of Sheffield together with others from across Europe are working on this problem as part of ‘SecureStation’, an EU FP7 project. The project is focusing on this relatively recent threat as well as more traditional security issues in the context of railway stations, and is developing a risk assessment tool and design handbook for European infrastructure managers, transport operators and architects. These aim to complement existing advice and regulation, where this exists. The risk assessment tool will aid decision makers in assessing the relative risk to a station from a terrorist attack according to criteria such as station location, size, ‘attractiveness’ as a potential target and vulnerability. The design handbook then aims to give thorough but relatively high level guidance on designing stations to be resilient to various types of attack including explosions, cyber-attacks and toxic substances as well as reducing fire risks and general crime. Since any measures taken will require site specific input the aim is to guide but not to offer prescriptive instructions.

Dr David Fletcher - University of SheffieldThe UK participants of SecureStation are researchers from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Mechanical Engineering (led by Dr David Fletcher, with Dr Jon Paragreen and Dr Emma Carter) and London-based architects John McAslan + Partners. They have previously worked together in the UK programme ‘ReDesign’ which developed understanding of how resilience to terrorism could be designed into crowded public places (shopping centres, sports venues, transport hubs), beginning from much earlier ideas on crime prevention through environmental design first explored in the 1960’s.

Dr Emma Carter - University of SheffieldThe SecureStation project is coordinated by the Spanish security and defence consultancy, Isdefe, and other partners include risk management experts, engineering consultants, security consultants and transport operators from Italy, Spain, Israel, Romania and Switzerland.

As part of the project, opinion has been sought from operators and managers from the industry (online survey available at on subjects such as security related equipment, HVAC systems and information management systems. The information requested includes values such as capital expenditure and operating costs as well as ranking the relative importance of factors such as cost-effectiveness and public perception.

Opinion has also been sought from the travelling public to find out passenger priorities concerning personal privacy, travel time, ticket price, security and convenience, and public opinion on issues such as staffing levels, CCTV, lighting, public announcements, luggage restrictions and baggage screening. The results of the passenger survey will be published so operators can make use of the data in understanding public acceptability of potential new security measures.


Both ‘active’ measures (e.g. luggage screening or increased CCTV) and less intrusive ‘passive’ measures, such as improvements to the layout, design and materials of the buildings themselves are being considered in the current project. For example, certain materials and building techniques can be more  resilient to fire and blast than others and the building layout can be designed to aid swift evacuation, control the spread of smoke and fumes, and make it easier to see suspicious packages, without any negative effect on the passenger experience.

Although it could be argued that any measure is worth taking if it increases passenger security, the reality is that a balance has to be found to improve security while avoiding a disproportionate impact on people’s daily journeys. The results of modelling air flow, fire and explosions in station environments, as well as pedestrian behaviour during evacuation are being used to inform the risk assessment and design guidelines, alongside existing security design guidance and best practice from across Europe.

The project will be completed by the end of 2013 and will deliver a risk assessment tool and comprehensive set of design guidelines for both new stations and station refurbishments. It is hoped these enable managers to make well informed choices regarding the security of the stations and achieve the best outcomes for the travelling public and for sustainable business operation.

Emma Carter, David Fletcher, Jon Paragreen, University of Sheffield