Barcelona Estació de França - CC / Flickr
Barcelona Estació de França - CC / Flickr

I’ve seen some idiotic security controls in my time, but yesterday at Estació de França, Barcelona, beats all of them.

The station, as the name implies, is the old terminus station for trains from the north of Catalonia towards France, and it’s also the station where night trains for France depart. The station has a dozen platforms and used to have three main exits to and from the street.

Two of those exits now have a simple string barrier preventing entry and exit, and the third has a magnetic bag scanner and a single security guard sitting beside it and scowling at passengers. Every bag is supposed to go through there, even if you’re a commuter, and hence there’s a queue to get into the station.

So what can you not take on a regular train? Remember we’re not talking about Eurostar here.

No firearms and explosives, OK. But they also control for ‘any other possibly dangerous objects’ that include knives, pick axes, spanners and pliers (according to the sign). Just think about that for a moment. If I lived in suburban Barcelona and needed to take a trip home from the shops, carrying such things on the train would be perfectly normal and totally unthreatening.

Conversely if I wanted to blow up the train, or wanted to murder someone, then I would have plenty of other ways to do it. There are no bag scanners on the Barcelona Metro, and nor could there be – imagine the queues into every station if there were – so I just would not pass through França station if I wanted to attack something. Equally if I wanted to target França itself I would be astounded if every station in Catalonia with trains departing for França also had a bag scanner, so the option would be to do it in the opposite direction.

As if the bag scanner itself were not a complete and utter waste of time, the man controlling it even had the cheek to shout at me for not having replaced the plastic box (used to put small bags in) in the right place.

So the whole thing is designed for the maximum inconvenience, with the minimum level of customer service, and absolutely no impact on our security whatsoever. Completely idiotic.

(Note: I’ve deliberately written this in a provocative manner. I’m sure someone in the comments will whine I’m insensitive to dangers of terrorism etc. No, I’m not. I’m just damned frustrated by security that wastes our time for no discernable benefit).

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