November 24, 2015 / 10:24 AM / 4 years ago

France to step up cross-border Thalys train security after Paris attacks

PARIS (Reuters) - France said on Tuesday it would install security gates at the Paris and Lille stations of the high-speed Thalys train, the target of a previous failed attack which police believe may be connected to the deadly Paris assaults.

In August, a suspected Islamist militant carrying an assault rifle was overpowered by passengers on the cross-border train. French police are investigating if Abdelhamid Abaaoud, the suspected mastermind of attacks in Paris that killed 130 people, was involved.

Gates would be installed in Paris and Lille before Dec. 20, and similar measures were planned in Brussels and Amsterdam, French Energy Minister Segolene Royal, who is also in charge of transport, said. She did not specify what kind of security gates would be installed.

Security concerns in the wake of the Paris attacks on Nov. 13 have prompted calls for tighter identity checks and airport-style baggage screening at railway stations, especially after it emerged that at least one of the attackers traveled freely from Syria to Europe.

The Thalys connects Germany, France, the Netherlands and Belgium.

European railway operators worry about the cost and delays of tighter security. Currently, there are no checks on passengers except ticket controls. Eventually France wants to go back to a system whereby only people who have a ticket can board trains, Royal said.

French railway operator SNCF plans to increase the number of random ticket controls in other French trains and railway stations, and SNCF is also considering putting passengers’ names on all international train tickets, she said.

Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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