Differences in how surveillance in public transport is regulated

Patrik Anderson

The legal regulations for video surveillance vary widely from country to country. The international association of public transport, UITP have asked their members in an international survey how the various aspects of legal framework regulates the use of video. They also investigated the values and opinions among the public transport operators and transit authorities of how the surveillance systems are perceived. This is what the results look like.


Legal situations regarding video surveillance vary widely from country to country. 42% of responders reported that surveillance monitoring is a legal requirement. For this group, regulations tend to cover passenger areas (stations, onboard vehicles). For more than a third, surveillance outside the areas related to the public transport system is not allowed, and a further third would need specific permits for this. In terms of the recording of video footage, almost all responders report that the recording of video footage is legally possible, but almost all of those are subject to limitations –  for example limited storage/retention time (ranging from 48h to 100 days) or for police usage only. Sound recordings are permitted for well over half of responders, although the vast majority of these have legal limitations in terms of usage. For approximately a third, sound recording is not allowed at all. For nearly two thirds of responders the quality of video to be valid evidence in court is regulated in some way, mainly either by law or by police directives. This gives assurance to the public transport system that video footage can be used as evidence.

Values & opinions

The vast majority of responders claim that the positive effects of using video surveillance systems are to increase the actual and perceived security among passengers and staff, as well as minimizing, deterring and managing various types of criminality. A third of responders mentioned helping investigations into crimes, injuries, suicides and accidents, including disproving false claims. Reducing fare evasion was only relevant for a small minority.

In terms of challenges, the most common problem of existing systems is the difficulty in monitoring the large number of cameras in the public transport system. Afterwards came a wide variety of issues ranging from poor image quality to resource intensiveness to technical issues. Almost a quarter reported no negative effects at all. Staff is generally very positive towards the use of video surveillance with more than 83% indicating positive or neutral reactions, especially when usage of the system is well communicated to staff. A small number of responders do not gather feedback from staff, however from among those that do, no responder reported a negative reaction from staff. In terms of passenger attitudes. In fact, more than two thirds report either positive or neutral reactions. A small number of responders don’t gather passenger feedback, however from among those that do, no responder reported negative feedback. Three quarters responded that passengers and staff would probably feel even more secure with surveillance systems used proactively to react in real-time to incidents.

More information about public transport security.