London considering airport-style screening at tube stations

London is exploring the possibility of introducing airport-style mass security screenings at mainline rail stations to prevent against possible attacks, including biological attacks.

The Home Office is looking into technologies that are capable of screening a large number of passengers to be used at major train and tube stations across the tube network, the Guardian reports.

The technology will be used to screen for explosives, guns and knives, as well as chemical and biological materials. The equipment will also need the ability to scan wheelchairs, prosthetics, crutches, strollers and bikes, as well as people and luggage, according to the Guardian.

The Home Office center for applied science and technology said that due to the high volume of passengers, traditional checkpoint screening will not be suitable, adding that station areas such as ticket barriers, lines, and the top and bottom of escalators could act as suitable screening areas.

It is uncertain at this point whether the equipment will be fixed or portable.

The Department of Transport carried out passenger screening trials at several mainline rail and tube stations in London in 2006 following the 2005 terrorist attacks, the Guardian reports.

The research found that people were not willing to accept major delays or invasions of their privacy, though they were largely positive about the need to carry out the checks. Passengers preferred the use of sniffing-dogs over being singled out to pass through an x-ray machine.

In June 2008, transport ministers ruled out the use of airport-style screening, saying it would not be feasible to introduce such technology to the thousands of entry points on the rail system.

The current official U.K. threat level has been downgraded from "severe" last July to a current level of "substantial," meaning an attack is a strong possibility, according to the Guardian.

The Home Office will begin the hunt for the right technology next month with results due by March.