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Police officers patrol the Brussels Midi station in the capital of Belgium on Aug. 23, 2015.
Police officers patrol the Brussels Midi station in the capital of Belgium on Aug. 23, 2015.
Patrick Randall

PARIS — The suspected terror attack thwarted by American and British passengers aboard a high-speed European train has brought railway security sharply into focus. The alleged gunman, believed to be a 25-year-old Moroccan named Ayob El Khazzani, boarded the Amsterdam-to-Paris train equipped with an assault rifle, automatic pistol, nine cartridge clips and a box-cutter. More than a decade after the 2004 Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people, and days after what could have been another such massacre, how can authorities in Europe and across the world rethink railway security? Here are five key points to bear in mind:

TRAIN STATIONS ARE NOT AIRPORTS

Airport security around the world became much tougher after 9/11, with stricter baggage, body and identity checks. In the wake of Friday's foiled attack, Belgium said it will increase baggage checks and patrols on high-speed trains and France announced it will set up an emergency hotline to report "abnormal situations." But can airport security be extended to train stations? Not according to the head of the French national railway company SNCF Guillaume Pepy, who describes such measures in the near future as "unrealistic," as the AFP reports. "There's a choice," he explained: Either you aim for comprehensive security and low (transport) efficiency, or less security and more efficiency. France has some 3,000 train stations, most of which were built during the 19th and 20th centuries — when today's terrorism was unimaginable — and are designed for their five million daily users, which is 20 times more than its airplane users, to be able to flow through as efficiently as possible.

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Mariateresa Fichele

Fifteen years ago, Francesco kept busy by scamming people. He was a regular visitor to the beaches of Terracina, south of Rome, where he was caught several times selling counterfeit Ray-Ban sunglasses. Then came the drugs, which fed a serious substance-induced psychosis and eventually he tested positive for HIV.

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