Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Transport Security

The Secretary of State for Transport is responsible for the security and (less directly) resilience of UK transport systems. Recent events such as the attacks on London, 9/11 and the Madrid bombings have brought security concerns to the fore and transport security is an important part of Government's long-term counter-terrorist strategy (CONTEST) with its four pillars Protect, Prevent, Pursue and Prepare.

The Secretary of State is empowered by legislation to require the regulated transport industries to implement security measures designed to protect their infrastructure, their hardware, staff and the public using it, from attack. The Director of Transport Security and Contingencies (TRANSEC) is authorised to sign Directions obliging the industries to carry out the Government's requirements.

There is no equivalent legal basis on the resilience side, although the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 placed requirements on most transport operators to cooperate with the primary responders in contingency planning and in sharing information. DfT (not just TRANSEC) acts less formally through its contacts with operators to ensure that they are aware of the Government's assessment of risks and have made their own plans accordingly.

Ministers play an important role in the Government-wide counter-terrorist and resilience and recovery machinery, primarily through membership of the relevant Ministerial level committee. In the event of a serious threat or an actual incident the Secretary of State and/or ministers would be involved in key decisions (for example cessation of flights or closure of a railway station) and would be expected to attend Ministerial level COBR (Cabinet Office Briefing Room) meetings.

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