Safety, security, protection – why CCTV is vital to the UK’s railways

25 Aug 2022
BY Zicam Integrated Security Ltd

As a sub-sector that comprises the Transport sector – one of 13 of the UK’s Critical National Infrastructure sectors – rail is vital to the successful functioning of our economy and society. Thousands of people on a daily basis use or work across our rail networks, making use of its assets and infrastructure. It’s the enormous responsibility of various UK rail operators to keep passengers and staff safe in stations and on trains, and Network Rail’s responsibility to safeguard the railway infrastructure. While this is a mammoth task, it’s facilitated by the 24/7 watchful eye of CCTV.

A pivotal moment for CCTV

Like every sector and industry, the use of CCTV on the rail network and in stations and trains increased as the technology became more widespread and cost effective. The value of having the opportunity to view miles of track and thousands of people has increased year on year as the role of CCTV in safety and security has become more integrated in daily operations.

But perhaps one of the pivotal changes in the use of this technology came with the decommissioning of manned signal boxes and the introduction of automated level crossings. This pushed the need for cameras to allow operators in the main network control stations an overview of the crossing from both a safety and operational perspective. Since then, there have been major advances in the development of technology and its uses across the three key areas of railway stations, the rail network, and trains.

Safety in stations

The use of CCTV throughout railway stations is so extensive because of the size and scale of them. It’s impossible for people to view all aspects of a station at all times, but fortunately, not for cameras. Some of the main uses for them are:

  1. Analytics – modern CCTV cameras use analytics to recognise unusual behaviour and many station cameras are installed to monitor platforms and tracks for this purpose. If a person slips, trips or falls onto the tracks, analytics will recognise it as an unusual event and flag it with the operator who will report it to British Transport Police.
  2. Suspicious activity – one of the main uses of CCTV in a train station is to track, follow and identify fare evaders, which also creates a cost saving from a reduction in the number of ticket officers required to do the same job.
  3. Fire detection – the use of video fire detection cameras is on the increase. Conventional fire detection systems within stations are fairly unreliable in comparison with this type of camera. They work by monitoring heat sources; if that source gets too hot, the camera will trigger an alert for rapid response. Thermal CCTV cameras are also used trackside on major intersections for the same purpose. If the tracks get too hot in the event of a heatwave, the cameras will alert Network Rail so they can take action.
  4. Evacuation – in the event of a station requiring immediate evacuation, CCTV is employed to coordinate an emergency response. In fact, many cameras will be linked to a public address, or tannoy, system which will issue automated announcements to facilitate evacuation.

Protection of infrastructure

One of the most significant crimes that our rail network is victim to is metal theft. Our customer – Daventry International Rail Freight Terminal – is an incredibly busy freight hub that serves the whole country. We look after 3 kilometres of track for them, providing and maintaining cameras every 100 metres, which is unusual but bespoke to the operation. Staff need visibility of that specific area because of the frequency of trains, but also because the hub has been victim to metal theft where criminals have stolen, for example, copper cables that connect signals. Not only is it costly and time consuming to replace, there is also the safety aspect unauthorised people trespassing on the tracks. CCTV acts as a deterrent and allows 24/7 monitoring of the area.

Keeping an eye on trains

Nowadays, every train carriage has a camera installed to monitor activity from a health and safety point of view. If there’s an incident where someone trips or falls and injures themselves the rail operator has that footage which can be used in the event of a claim, or simply to take action to prevent the same thing happening again.

As with any other industry or business, CCTV is an integral part of keeping you safe. If you want to learn more about the technology and how it might benefit your business, contact our team today.

Dave Salisbury, Managing Director, Zicam Integrated Security Limited.

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