'Trained to shoot': 3k armed marshals in civilian clothing to patrol French trains
“These agents will be trained how to shoot,” SNCF chief Guillaume Pépy said Sunday. The marshals will supplement security teams who patrol in uniform on certain lines, particularly on suburban trains around Paris.
The idea is similar to air marshals: armed plain-clothes officers which are often present on flights.
The move is made possible by a boost to the rail service's security budget, which will increase by 50 percent to around €400 million (US$455 million).
“SNCF is changing,” said Pépy, as quoted by the Local. “We won’t take the train in the same way anymore.”
In addition to the armed marshals, a team of profilers will survey some of the 40,000 train station cameras for suspicious behavior, according to the AP. Security portals in some stations will add arms and explosives detection, while more metal detectors will also be placed on platforms.
SNCF guards will also be able to search passengers' luggage when they arrive at stations, and around 30 additional sniffer dogs will be deployed.
However, the changes have faced criticism from those who claim the moves are useless since such security measures aren't being implemented at stations in Amsterdam, Brussels, or Cologne – cities which connect to Paris by train. However, Pépy has insisted that talks with foreign governments are underway.
The measures come after France moved to arm more local police and gave off-duty officers the right to carry arms. The government is also considering allowing private security guards to carry weapons.
The boosted security measures come less than two weeks after terror attacks in Brussels killed 32 people and injured over 300 others. In November, attacks in Paris left 130 people dead and hundreds wounded.