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How Germany plans to improve safety at railway stations

Security at railway stations in Germany is to be improved over the next five years, with plans for extra police and more CCTV.

How Germany plans to improve safety at railway stations
Tributes were laid at Frankfurt main station after the death of the boy at the end of July. Photo: DPA

The government and Deutsche Bahn have agreed on a series of measures to improve safety at railway stations following the death of an eight-year-old boy who was killed after being pushed under a train at Frankfurt main station.

Plans include introducing more trained security staff at Germany's 5,600 stations, as well as expanding video surveillance and facial recognition technology.

“We are counting on deterrence and intelligence,” said Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer after the meeting with Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (both of the centre-right CSU, the sister party of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats) and Deutsche Bahn chairman Ronald Pofalla.

More police and security

A total of 1300 additional federal police officers are to be assigned to stations.

As the staff still need to be trained, the posts will gradually be introduced over the next five years. In addition, Seehofer has been advocating for the police force to receive 11,300 extra posts by 2025.

READ ALSO: 'More police needed': Killing of child puts focus on safety and security at German train stations

These officers will be used for overall prevention of crime in Germany, including at railway stations, Seehofer said.

Deutsche Bahn also wants to strengthen its own security at stations and on trains, although the figure for this has not been revealed. An additional €10 million will be made available annually for this purpose. 

There are plans to set up so-called 'mobile support groups' that can assist with security when needed. These special task forces already exist in Berlin, and the concept is currently being implemented in Essen and Munich.

Modern video technology

Scheuer announced that €50 million will be ploughed into modern video technology and €250 million in modern digital radio in the coming years. This will also advance video surveillance using biometric face recognition at railway stations. 

By the end of 2024 “almost all large railway stations will be equipped with modern video technology,” he said.

The two CSU ministers and Deutsche Bahn also agreed to set up a working group to examine further technical possibilities for reducing risks at stations. This will involve, for example, the installation of barriers on the platform at some stations.

On July 29th, a man pushed an eight-year-old boy and his mother in front of a high-speed train arriving at the station. The child died, while the mother was able to save herself.

The suspect, a 40-year-old Eritrean man who had been living in Switzerland, was caught immediately after the attack. Since the end of August, he has been temporarily accommodated in a psychiatric hospital.

Earlier in the month, a 34-year-old mother died after being pushed in front of a train in Voerde in North Rhine-Westphalia, allegedly by a Serbian man.

In the aftermath of the attacks, passengers waiting for trains in Germany were advised to stay alert, to avoid using mobile phones when a train is approaching and to stand at least two metres away from the platform edge.

Unlike in some other countries, there are no ticket barriers at German train stations, so anyone can get on to a platform whether or not they have a ticket.

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Emergency numbers fail in several German states

Callers to the emergency numbers 110 and 112 weren’t able to reach operators Thursday morning in several German states.

The 112 emergency number on an ambulance.
The 112 emergency number on an ambulance. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Boris Roessler

The emergency number 110 for police and 112 for fire crews failed around the country early Thursday morning, with callers unable to reach emergency operators for urgent assistance between about 4:30 am and 5:40 am local time.

The Office for Civil Protection and Disaster Aid is looking into these outages, which were reported in states including Lower Saxony, Baden-Württemberg, and  Brandenburg, and in major cities like Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg, and Frankfurt. Cologne was further affected by cuts to electricity, drinking water, and regular telephone services. Lower Saxony also saw disruptions to the internal phone networks of police and hospitals.

Emergency services are not reporting any more disturbances and people should be able to once again reach 110 and 112 around the country as normal.

Investigators are looking into the problem, but haven’t yet established a cause or any consequences that may have happened due to the outage. Provider Deutsche Telekom says they have ruled out the possibility of an attack by hackers.