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How Rail Travel Safety Can Be Improved (And Why it Probably Won’t Be)

In the wake of last week’s foiled attack on a train traveling from Amsterdam to Paris, European and leading world officials are left wondering what exactly can be done about security in train stations.

Belgian Prime Minister, Charles Michel, has suggested altering the Schengen Agreement, which dismissed border controls between the EU countries. This would grant more flexibility for countries to patrol transit centers. His main suggestions are to implement identity checks and baggage monitoring on trains.

However, his comments have received some backlash as a borderless Europe is essential to the EU’s economy and future. Not to mention his suggestions take away from the ease and quickness of traveling by rail.

An alternative to Michel’s proposals is an increase in security personnel aboard trains, but this would require significant resources due to the number of trains across the continent. According to the New York Times, 40 million people travel on Europe’s rail networks every day, making airport-like security nearly impossible to enforce at train stations.

As someone who has taken this train route and traveled through Europe by rail with no passport check (even as a non-EU citizen), I can’t deny feeling a little uneasy about train travel.

What makes train stations so vulnerable is that anyone can access them without a purchased ticket. However, authorities say most European stations physically would not be able to handle the lines that would develop by pre-scanning tickets, identity checks, or luggage scanning.

So, where are the “safest trains” to take in Europe? The Eurostar, which connects London (England is not part of the EU) to the rest of Europe, does screen passengers and their luggage. Some high-speed rails in Spain do this as well after the Madrid terrorist bombings in 2004.

Related: 10 Most Important Safety Tips for Travelers

This is not to say to abandon rail travel all together or cause uneasiness. Rail travel is extremely convenient due to its affordability, central location, reliability, and absence of security lines. Instead, take this as a reason to be more cautionary and aware when traveling domestically and abroad. Make sure you register with the State Department’s program, STEP, designate a contact person at home to check in with, know all local emergency numbers, and follow all implemented security measures.

You tell us: Have you reconsidered rail travel in the US or abroad?

Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter @ashley_stravel for more advice about travel safety and destination ideas.

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