THREE trainspotters got a surprise when they were stopped and searched by police at Basingstoke railway station under legislation aimed to target possible terrorists.

Michael Fidoe, 57, was one of three rail enthusiasts searched by officers at Basingstoke station on April 4.

He had been sitting on the platform for two hours when a pair of police officers approached, asked who he was and what he was doing and then searched his bag, citing Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.

As a "transport hub", Basingstoke station is designated as a place where police can use the Terrorism Act to stop and search people acting in an unusual manner.

Such action requires officers to fill in forms so Mr Fidoe's details were taken and he was given a sheet of paper informing him of the situation.

"I do not mind being asked what I am doing, but getting a ticket is a bit much," said Mr Fidoe, who had travelled to Basingstoke from his home in Drybrook, Gloucestershire to watch the trains.

"The fact that the police officers have to do paperwork after something so simple is ridiculous. Surely their time could be better spent.

"I am a bit upset about the wording of the ticket. It says loitering, which to me means something more sinister than sitting, watching trains."

Kory Thorne, acting chief inspector at Basingstoke police station, said the officers were entitled to stop and search the men.

"The officers were curious as to what the men were doing as they had been there a while without boarding a train," he said. "They did not see any of them with notebooks or cameras so were not aware the men were trainspotting."

Mr Thorne added: "We are mindful that the rail network is useful for terrorists and the attacks on the Spanish rail system last year came in the run-up to an election, so we were being extra vigilant. We are also aware that Basingstoke station itself has been a target in the past."

First published: Friday, May 13, 2005