Tuesday 20 October 2020

European SHERPA project: final conference held online on 15 October

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More than 90 participants from 21 countries across the world attended this online conference organised by UIC on 15 October to discuss the findings and main outputs of SHERPA (Shared and coherent European Railway Protection Approach).

The two-year European Union SHERPA project, coordinated by UIC, began on 1 November 2018. The main objective was to improve the overall security level at railway stations and in trains (understood as public spaces and soft targets) in terms of protection against terrorism across Europe.

SHERPA received funding from the European Union’s Internal Security Fund Police under grant agreement no. 915347.

Because stations and trains are easily accessible, it is difficult to effectively protect them, and checking people in main stations with high passenger or user flows remains complicated. The challenge in the context of the SHERPA project, then, was to improve the overall level of protection against terrorist attack in trains and stations in Europe, bearing in mind that it is also essential that rail transport remains open, attractive and easily accessible to the greatest extent possible.

After two years of intensive work, the SHERPA project is coming to an end. The partners - DB AG, FS, PKP, SNCB and SNCF, coordinated by UIC - presented their results at the online conference.

In his opening speech, Mr François Davenne, UIC Director General, expressed his thanks to the five railway companies involved in the project. He said, “They are key players in the railway sector and also very active members of UIC. The results achieved are particularly interesting and effective for the other UIC members but also for authorities to better understand railway constraints”. Mr Davenne also thanked the EU Commission, and especially DG Home, which funded the project and without which the project could not have happened.

Following Mr Davenne’s address, Mr Marc Léoutre, Policy Officer at DG Home, welcomed the participants and thanked the consortium. He said, “SHERPA is an ambitious and well-prepared project which achieved its objectives. It provides very clear added value by contributing to the protection of EU citizens in trains and stations, which is our key priority at DG Home”.

Mr Léoutre then gave an update on the EU Security Union Strategy, particulary priority areas for the period 2020 to 2025, focusing on where the EU can offer added value to support member states in fostering security for all those living in Europe. From combatting terrorism and organised crime, preventing and detecting hybrid threats, and increasing the resilience of our critical infrastructure, to promoting cybersecurity and fostering research and innovation, the strategy lays out the tools and measures to be developed over the next five years to ensure security in our physical and digital environment.

Following an overview of the project provided by Ms Marie-Hélène Bonneau, coordinator of the project on behalf of UIC, the project results and achievements were presented by the partners.

Ms Delphine Beatse of SNCB (Belgium) presented the results of WP2 on terrorist risk assessment and management. The SHERPA database on security attacks against rail transport shows that the number of attacks is increasing; this last decade has seen the highest number of attacks targeting rail in Europe. Lessons learned from past attacks were also presented. Moreover, the consortium has defined a list of criteria for a coherent approach to risk assessment and management, meant as suggestions for railway companies and to complement the existing internal risk assessment and management methodology.

This was followed by the results of WP3 on the analysis of emerging threats, presented by Mr Vincent Roque of SNCF (France). The main challenge for railways is that the identification of emerging threats is a task for national authorities, national intelligence services and national security services. Thus, the role of railway security organisations is limited to cooperating with and supporting these stakeholders by granting security agencies access to information such as video footage and data. The consortium has documented expectations and needs, particularly in relation to the need for more coherent measures and procedures at Schengen border points, more international exercises with police, and innovative solutions.

WP4 on the assessment of security solutions was presented by Mr Dominik Kogut of PKP (Poland) and Ms Marita-Anne Grosser of DB (Germany). Some 30 security solutions have been analysed and assessed by the members of the consortium. Many challenges have been identified, among them compliance of solutions with legal requirements (particularly data protection regulations), a lack of standardisation in respect of technical solutions for the rail sector, mitigation of false alarms, insufficient network coverage for data transmission in real time, secure transmission solutions, user-friendly systems for both staff and passengers, and financial aspects. Finally, use of security technology is helpful, but does not replace the presence of local security personnel.

The final work package focused on practical tools delivered by the project and was led by FS (Italy). Ms Maria-Cristina Fiorentino of FS described the three-day international training programme on security for operational staff, designed and delivered as part of the SHERPA project. Around 60 participants from 11 countries attended the three online sessions, which brought together stakeholders from diverse backgrounds and offered them the opportunity to exchange best practice and experience as well as raise awareness among participants of many aspects of rail security.

Two other practical tools have also been developed within this work package: one on guidance for managing insider threat related to terrorism, and the other on digital media for raising awareness.

The UIC Rail Security Hub, which has been comprehensively updated with the SHERPA results, was presented live by Ms Julika Ramlow and Ms Magdalena Kujacińska from the UIC Security division. This online tool enables rail security experts and policymakers to select and implement the most appropriate strategies and measures to improve security in Europe with a common approach.

To broaden the scope of the conference, a first presentation was given by Mr Grigore Havarneanu of UIC on the PROACTIVE project, another ongoing EU project within the UIC Security division on CBRNe threat, which was also identified as an emerging threat within the SHERPA project. The PROACTIVE project aims to enhance preparedness against and response to CBRNe incidents through better harmonisation of procedures between various categories of practitioners and better articulation of the needs of vulnerable citizen groups. Mr Havarneanu invited the participants to the mid-term conference, which will be held online on 28 October.

This was followed by an inspiring presentation by Mr Robert Melan of TSA (US Transport Security Administration) on the activities of TSA surface operations with regard to conducting security system assessments, reviewing and prioritising surface transportation security grant funding, ensuring operator coordination, cooperation, and compliance with regulations and voluntary standards, training workforces, intelligence and information sharing and technology.

Closing the conference, Marie-Hélène Bonneau thanked the partners for their excellent cooperation over the past two years, the external experts who contributed to the work through the various workshops and training sessions, and the conference attendees for their active participation. She stressed that although the project has been completed, the work will continue. Security is a key issue for the rail sector, and the UIC Security division will continue to maintain and update the Security Hub with relevant study results, best practices, lessons learned from within the existing cooperation structures such as the UIC Security Platform, Colpofer, RAILPOL, EU Railsec Platform and DG Home on protection of public spaces.

Beyond the results, the SHERPA project provided a good opportunity to strengthen cooperation between the railways and highlight the coherence needed between national policies defined by public authorities in charge of security of people and goods.

Mr Jerzy Wisniewski, Director of UIC’s Fundamental Values department, thanked the consortium for its excellent work, the participants for their participation, and DG Home for funding the project.

Website: https://sherpa-rail-project.eu/

For further informationn, please contact Marie-Hélène Bonneau, UIC Head of Security Division bonneau@uic.org

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