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A transport hub (also transport interchange) is a place where passengers and cargo are exchanged between vehicles or between transport modes.


Public transport hubs include train stations, rapid transit stations, bus stops, tram stop, airports and ferry slips. Freight hubs include classification yards, seaports and truck terminals, or combinations of these. For private transport, the parking lot functions as a hub [1]. For the purposes of Urban Securipedia, we focus on two types of hub; stations and ports:

Hub type Description Icon
Station A stopping place on a public transportation route for trains, metro and tram systems, often consisting of a platform and a building or group of buildings depending on scale. The station allows passengers to embark or disembark from the mode of transport.
Port A port includes both airports and sea ports, and refers to the area and associated structures where planes land or take-off, and where ferrys dock or depart. They allow for modality change by passengers, etc.
Rail network

Where any aspect of the following sections on this page are considered to be specific to one of the hub types listed above, the relevant icon will be displayed.



  • Transportation has always played an important role in influencing the formation of urban societies. Although other facilities like availability of food and water, played a major role, the contribution of transportation can be seen clearly from the formation, size and pattern, and the development of societies, especially urban centres (NPTEL May 24, 2006).
  • Connecting modes of transport, through transport hubs aids the achievement of efficient, more accessible travel. Hubs serve to maximise the potential of existing networks, encourage the use of public transport and discourage car traffic. In order to plan effectively for transport hubs local development control processes should seek to ensure that high trip generating developments be located in such areas of high public transport accessibility, connectivity and capacity. The design and layout of sites should maximise access on foot and cycle to public transport facilities.[2]


Transportation hubs such as a bus or railway station play an important role in making transportation more efficient since they allow the use of different modes (e.g. the combination of train and car transport) for both human and freight transport.

Infrastructure in the form of transport networks has a direct economic impact on the scale of local market areas. The spatial extent of retail and other services' catchment areas, for example, is partly a function of the costs of travel by customers. In fact, a hierarchy of services provision/facilities exists determined by the transport network. This is most evident in retailing, e.g. large retail superstore, local supermarket, small corner shop. Accessibility has an impact on the spatial distribution of employment and residential preferences. In terms of location, there is likely to be a higher demand for land/property that has good accessibility both to it, and to other services/facilities/infrastructure, etc. In as much as accessibility can influence profitability then this is reflected in land prices/rents.

Good planning keeps common activities close to transportation lines and hubs, minimising the need for transport and enabling individuals and transportation companies to use different modes of transport.

In general, security threats will have a negative effect on the function of transportation hubs, limiting the mobility of a society as whole. As a result the positive economic impact of an efficient transportation system will be partly reversed (the economic impact of security threats). While modern science and technology has made it possible to come up with very advanced technologies for mitigating security threats, at the same time, these security measures have high capital, operating and maintenance costs, also referred to as the economic impact of security measures (see case example below). Hence, cost-effective security measures for transit hubs require not only familiarity with the technological aspects of these measures, but also with the the financial and risk elements involved.

Case example: Aviation security

Security experts Stewart and Mueller (2008)[3] performed a cost-benefit analysis of the Federal Air Marshal Service and hardening cockpit doors as security measures against terrorist events like 9/11. They conclude that even if the Federal Air Marshal Service prevents one 9/11 replication each decade, the $900 million annual spending on Air Marshal Service fails a cost-benefit analysis at an annual estimated cost of $180 million per life saved (compared to a societal willingness to pay to save a life of $1 - $10 million per saved life). On the other hand, Stewart and Mueller (2008) [3] conclude that with $40 million per year, target hardening of cockpit doors is one of the most cost-effective security measures with an annual cost of $800,000 per life saved.


Hubs are needed for multi-modal travelling for both passenger and freight transport. Multi-modal means that more than one mode is used during the trip, for example walking + train + bus. For each interchange, a hub (like a station) is needed. Hubs are therefore essential for mobility and transportation.

Hubs are the most vulnerable part concerning security threats during a trip. Because their location is fixed and attract many people, it are popular targets for security issues such as pickpocketing, vandalism, or mass killing (think of the Moscow and London metro bombings [4][5]).

The design of a hub or station should be such that large flows of people can find their way to their next means of transport easily. Also in case of incidents they should be able to leave the building or station quickly. Principles from crowd management and directing traffic flows can be used for this.


The large amounts of people present at hubs, often in crowded circumstances, make evacuation management an important safety feature to minimize injuries in case of an incident[6].

Security Issues

Transportation hubs, by their nature, are vulnerable environments. Hubs cater for the transport of large numbers of travellers and goods daily, making them target rich destinations. They are easily penetrated, often characterised by multiple entry points, various service providers and agencies, vast perimeters, and restricted spaces, aspects which add to their vulnerability.

The predictable presence of large groups of people, often close together, make hubs an attractive target for terrorists. These attacks can be either targeted directly at the crowd, or at the hub or objects within it, with the goal to create unsafe conditions which will injure or kill even more people than a direct attack. One way to achieve this is to weaken the structure of the building with an explosion to the point of collapse[7].

  • Security issues can arise with intermodal transport hubs where the cross-modal nature of the facility may mean that the level of security is not consistent throughout the hub. For example a railway station at an airport may have a lower level of overall security than the airport building, yet may be just as attractive a target for terrorists.[8]

The presence of great numbers of people, often close together, is also an attractive element for

The wide exposure that the large numbers of passing people bring, make this environment attractive for

Areas near transportation hubs are attractive locations for


The measures for each type of security issue can be found on the respective pages. There are few measures that are specifically suited or unsuited to this kind of urban object, but some general considerations can be mentioned:

  • Target hardening can be used to increase the effort to or decrease the effect of committing vandalism or graffiti, mass killing or destruction by fanatics.
  • Surveillance can be effective against mentioned security issues, but can incur high costs if implemented as dedicated observers, either on location or remote.
  • Intervention force is needed to make detection measures, such as alarms or surveillance effective
  • Directing traffic flows can be effective against robbery by separating traffic flows and minimizing possibilities for loitering (inconspicuous target selection) and easy escapes.
  • Ownership can be effective against vandalism and graffiti in order to let the public be aware of what would and would not be allowed and facilitate them to act accordingly.
  • Access control can be used to disallow access to particular (vulnerable) parts of the area or location or at particular times. It can serve to set clear boundaries and establish a sense of ownership.
  • Screening can be used in hubs where required identification is acceptable, such as airports and some types of seaports Port.jpg.

Footnotes and references

  1. <>
  2. Rudi ‘Creating transport hubs and urban development opportunities’.[Internet] Available at: Accessed: 14/3/13
  3. 3.0 3.1 Stewart, M.G., J. Mueller (2008): A risk and cost-benefit assessment of United States aviation security measures. Springer Science.
  6. This is subject to specialised studies, such as the EU project Secur-ed
  7. for a similar attack on a government building, see: wikipedia:Oklahoma City bombing
  8. Reference: European Commission (2012) ‘COMMISSION STAFF WORKING DOCUMENT on Transport Security’ [Internet] Available at: Accessed 14/3/13
  9. Monk Khadija M., Heinonen Justin A. and Eck John E., Street Robbery, Problem-Oriented Guides for Police, Guide No. 59, April 2010