Car rental companies are being asked to carry out tougher background checks on individuals looking to hire a vehicle, following recent terrorist attacks in European cities including Barcelona and London.

Ministers and police are working with the companies to crackdown on what a UK government source called the malicious use of hire vehicles following the string of attacks where a car, van or truck have been driven into crowds.

Police forces around the country have access to a central “national barrier asset” to prevent vehicle attacks in sensitive sites. Barriers have recently been erected on a number of bridges in central London.

Meanwhile operators of private sites, including sports stadiums, bars and visitor attractions are being given refreshed advice by the government on how to counter the terrorist threat.

Bicester Village, an outlet shopping centre in Oxfordshire, is among the locations where anti-vehicle barriers have recently been erected.

Security barriers on the Royal Mile to prevent vehicles being driven into large crowds during the Edinburgh Festival © Getty

The government on Sunday said it was “working with the police and the vehicle rental industry to explore what more can be done to prevent the malicious use of hire vehicles”.

A spokesman said this included “looking at what more rental companies could do before an individual can hire a vehicle”, while refusing to go into details. However, counter-terrorism measures may include cross-checking information handed to rental companies against criminal watch lists.

The attack in Barcelona was the latest in a string of vehicle attacks by terrorists, which have also hit Nice, Berlin, Stockholm and London.

A British government official said: “We have also been working to improve protection in public spaces, including increased physical security measures at locations such as bridges and city centres, and will continue to explore every option.

“At the same time people should not be afraid to go about their daily lives. We ask that people remain alert but not alarmed and report anything suspicious to the police.”

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