Capacity, Carbon and Connectivity: how innovations in security technology will unlock benefits for HS2

Article
28 June 2021
Lucas Young, Axis Communications, explains the use of connected surveillance technologies within the rail sector, and how they can help managers improve services.

Rail operators are increasingly being confronted with a host of challenges associated with improving existing rail infrastructure while maintaining a high-quality service across their networks. Advancements in technology can now transform the customer experience while leading to other improvements which look set to revolutionise the sector. The application of physical security technologies, in particular, can have a significant impact on the three key problems facing the nation, which HS2 is aiming to address: creating more capacity, cutting carbon and better connectivity[1].

Modern video surveillance, with cloud-based analytics and machine-learning capabilities, is emerging as one of the most powerful tool-sets available for transport operators to meet their responsibilities in many areas of transport management and passenger safety. Such technology, based around connected network-enabled sensors and devices, and built on open standards that encourage the sharing of best practices and facilitate greater collaboration, can deliver many benefits for the industry. These benefits can help to improve services and work towards a more sustainable future.

Enhancing capacity

Smart video surveillance can help improve the utilisation of assets. Through knowing where people are, and being able to predict their movements, trends can be identified to enable better planning, resulting in smoother operations with associated cost benefits. As an example, consider a typical commuter station with fluctuating quiet and busy periods and a changing demographic depending on time of day and day of the week. Passengers can be counted on and off the train using a camera, while data, based on the imagery, can be studied over time to develop an accurate picture of regular activity. This will improve decision making about the timing and number of services running on any given day.

Installing Axis’ network video surveillance cameras that analyse and interpret behaviour can improve security and safety, enhance operational efficiency and, ultimately, increase the customer experience. If rail operators are able to predict the profile of passengers and how they use the service, then simple adjustments can be made to better meet travellers’ needs. For example, data around how many pushchairs or bikes are being brought on board, or whether there are people with accessibility requirements that regularly travel, can be used to achieve a more tailored service driven by real customer requirements.

Sadly, rail networks are often attractive to those contemplating suicide, and here again technology can be used to help prevent such tragic occurrences and avert untimely delays. Of the few studies that exist on the subject, a ‘30-minute wave of contemplation’ has been identified prior to a person attempting suicide. Such individuals are often seen to be demonstrating ‘unusual behaviours’ such as loitering in high-risk areas. Advanced IP camera technology can play an integral part in identifying these behaviours, utilising analytical capabilities to help station staff identify at-risk individuals who might be contemplating suicide. A decision can then be made to deploy a member of staff to interact with the subject, or perhaps automatically play a pre-determined announcement via an IP horn speaker in the vicinity of an individual to break the ’30-minute wave of contemplation’.

Improving connectivity

The growth of the rail network, such as the HS2 and Great North Rail[2] Projects, can bring many regeneration opportunities, improving connectivity and prosperity for rural economies by connecting towns and cities and bringing increased wellbeing among those citizens. When it comes to technology, connectivity of network devices via the internet of things (IoT) allows data from shared cameras, sensors and access control points to be collected and analysed, creating a comprehensive and overarching view of a location or situation. This holistic view of operations, based on connectivity and device interoperability, can be hugely beneficial for transport managers and security personnel.

Consider a busy rail network where rugged PTZ surveillance cameras and / or thermal imaging cameras, mounted at the side of the tracks, can monitor for trespassers or debris on the line, while cameras equipped to capture clear imagery in near darkness offer visibility at night and within the many tunnels. In addition, cameras within the station watch for other situations that might demand staff attention, such as platform queues or unsociable behaviour. Digital audio speakers can be employed to issue real-time or pre-recorded announcements and alerts based on camera data.

Further cameras and sensors with edge-based processing capabilities can be installed inside trains, allowing the combined metadata from all of the devices to be passed back to a central control centre for analysis. This is a simpler, more efficient and more cost-effective process than employing servers on-site to manage vast amounts of video. It also removes the multiple points of potential failure associated with a traditional server set-up.

A sustainable future for rail

The UK’s Net-Zero target of a 100% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, means that commitment to the sustainability agenda is essential for all businesses[3]. With an emphasis on sustainability becoming ever more important, a commitment to improving operations within the rail industry is also a key component in building customer trust. Engaging with environmental challenges head on, beyond being the right thing to do, strengthens the bond with customers, and offers its own return on investment.

Embracing more ethical ways of operating, with a focus on sustainability and awareness of the implications that business actions can have for the environment, necessitates the need to follow specific guidelines. Working to international frameworks and standards such as the UN Global Compact, which Axis joined in 2007, can play a role in helping companies achieve the UN’s sustainability development goals (SDGs) as well as offering proof that a business is demonstrating commitment. Axis’ commitment to sustainability includes a drive to encourage reduction in the use of PVC plastics, proven to contain harmful and hazardous chemicals. In 2018, 95% of Axis’ cameras and encoders, and 80% of the complete product range were PVC-free.

Axis’ technologies, built upon open platforms that facilitate collaboration with trusted partners and stakeholders, have the ability to help support the HS2 project across multiple aspects of security and operations while encouraging and demonstrating sustainable practices. A partnership with Axis is a step towards true innovation for a smarter safer world.


[1] https://mediacentre.hs2.org.uk/resources/hs2-more-capacity-cutting-carbon-and-better-connectivity

[2] https://www.networkrail.co.uk/running-the-railway/railway-upgrade-plan/key-projects/great-north-rail-project/

[3] https://www.theccc.org.uk/uk-action-on-climate-change/reaching-net-zero-in-the-uk/

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