Selected large Czech railway stations will gradually start to receive their security service from the middle of the year, replacing the current staff of private security agencies. The Railway Administration (SŽ) often struggles with the different quality of staff at individual stations and therefore wants to unify it and reduce costs by deploying modern technologies.
“By creating a protection service, we also want to prevent the frequent turnover of employees of private security agencies. In the future, our service will provide security at selected locations, such as railway stations in regional cities or important junction stations. In the rest of the network, we will continue cooperating with private agencies,” Jan Nevola, spokesman for SŽ, said.
The uniformed staff will be specially trained to ensure the safety of passengers and help them, for example, when disembarking.
“They will have the necessary knowledge about the railroad and be trained for various types of crises and emergencies. They will also help passengers in routine activities like boarding or alighting from trains. We are talking about acquiring partial powers that, for example, members of the forest or water guards have,” Nevola added.
This extension of powers is related, for example, to security searches or the identification of people. The new service would seek such powers, but to do so, laws would have to be changed. The security guards would not be armed but must master the service’s tactics against potential aggressors. They will also make greater use of CCTV.
The service will also be responsible for reporting offenses to the administrative authorities. It is already guarding the Negrelli Viaduct in Prague, but more locations will be added this year, for the time being, in the capital. “In the middle of the year, it should provide security in Smíchov, Eden, or Zahradní Město,” Nevola said.
Railway Administration officials expect the service to have about 150 employees, who will gradually replace private units. This model will allow the state organization to reduce the cost of providing security at railway stations and places with critical infrastructure. However, SŽ does not want to specify how much the costs will be diminished, especially given the minimum wage and inflation.
The problem with the current private agencies was not only the different quality of staff but also their rotation around different stations and facilities. They lacked a connection to the place and, therefore, a good knowledge of it.
In the past, railway buildings were guarded by the railway police, which specialized in public order, the protection of people, and the detection of crimes and offenses committed in railway transport. However, this ended in July 2012, and the officers were disbanded into the district department. Fears of increased crime did not materialize then, and security agencies took over the activities.
In the future, checks on passengers on long-distance international fast trains using security frames, as is common abroad (for example, in France or Poland), could also contribute to greater security at Czech railway stations.
Railway protection in the past
Railways were protected as early as the 1930s by the Armed Railway Protection Corps (ARPC). They were created because of growing social tensions and fears of threats to the state. The Corps protected the safety of railroad operations but did not take over the powers of the police.
The Public Security Railway Unit (PSU) was established in 1953, and the Armed Railway Protection Unit (ARPU) was established 11 years later before being reorganized into the Armed Railway Protection Corps (ARPC) in 1974.
Since 1994, the state has established the Railway Police of the Czech Republic, which ensures public order, protects the safety of persons, and detects crimes and offenses committed in railway transport. It was abolished on July 1, 2012.