The continent of Europe is made up of 45 different countries. In the EU alone there are 23 official languages spoken. One would imagine that on a continent so diverse it would be difficult to find common ground. But despite the cultural and language differences, the countries of the old continent do share similar challenges. Many of the European city centers are dotted with historical sites which impede new road construction. Massive investment in public transportation helps to address this urban accessibility problem while balancing the need to protect historical heritage.
While public transport is a great option, passengers’ surveys have shown that ridership is tightly linked with their sense of safety and security. Here, technologies (such as CCTV, on-board recording, live streaming over broadband networks, GPS tracking, video analytics), supplemented by real-time information sharing and consistent response processes, all play a vital role. But a lack of standardization and compatibility among these solutions has limited the ability of public transit operators to use them to their full potential when it comes to mitigating safety and security threats.
SECUR-ED, an EU-funded consortium made up of large and medium-sized European public transport operators (from Madrid, Berlin, Paris, Milan, and Bucharest), was founded to solve this very problem. Working with transportation industry powerhouses like Thales and Bombardier, and leading physical security industry vendors such as AXIS and NICE, the consortium is creating packaged modular solutions (in SECURE-ED’s own words a “consistent, interoperable mix of technologies and processes”) to enhance urban transport security.
A key aspect of SECURE-ED’s methodology involves demonstrations which help the consortium evaluate holistic security solutions under various threat, emergency and crisis scenarios. Following successful demonstrations in Milan, where depot protection was demonstrated, and in Berlin, where control room training and simulation solutions were presented, the consortium is now undertaking a demonstration at RATB (Regia Autonomă de Transport Bucureşti). RATB operates a network of buses, trams and trolleybuses in Bucharest.
In the Bucharest demonstration, AXIS, Qognify and Bombardier transportation are joining forces to test their solution to a common problem: aggressive behavior toward ticket inspectors on buses. In the test simulation, a ‘distressed’ RATB Inspector will push a panic button on a handheld device. This in turn will trigger an alert in the Qognify Situation Management platform at the RATB command and control center and activate a direct video stream from the inspector’s Tram to the command and control center. Pressing the Panic Button also initiates a three-party call with the Gendarmerie (police) and the control center in which the inspector will report the incident and request police back up. At the end of the test scenario the police dispatcher and command center operator are able to watch in real-time as the police forces arrest the offender.
In the second Bucharest demonstration, Qognify and AXIS will work together to test their solution for detecting unauthorized access to restricted areas. Intruders to train yards and depots often commit acts of theft and vandalism. The depot protection solution combines high definition outdoor PTZ cameras, sophisticated video analytics, and PTZ tracking to detect breaches and follow an intruder’s movements. Response plans embedded in Situator present step-by-step instructions as the incident unfolds. For example, operators might be directed to use the loudspeaker, turn on bright lights or dispatch security. Operators can also use the Qognify situational awareness platform to view live video feeds from on-board trams as well as fixed surveillance cameras in train depots, and then share incident information, such as the exact incident location, live on-scene video feed, or still images of a suspect, with police forces.
From a professional perspective it has been fascinating to see how the concepts devised in SECUR-ED meetings rooms have been transformed into real solutions that provide tangible value for rail operators. It has also been gratifying to collaborate with other participating vendors on this great success in collaborative security. It also has personal significance for me as my father used to ride the RATB tram as a child. It reminds me of the importance of what SECURE-ED is really about and what we are all striving for – safety and security for all rail travelers.