Engineers devise system to enhance rail safety standards

06 January 2012

Posted by Michelle Devonshire

Safety standards across the rail network could be improved by a new system devised by engineers from the UK.

The specialists at the French institute of science and technology for transport, development and networks (IFSTTAR) and Lille-based joint research unit IEMN have proposed that radar devices can detect items falling onto tracks.

According to the team of scientists, CCTV is effective but can blur or become obstructed, while the sensors will provide immediate identification of objects such as luggage or people if they drop from the platform.

Writing in the journal Measurement Science and Technology, the experts said that train stations could be fitted with ultra wideband radio wave technology similar to that used in the detection of ships and aircraft, potentially preventing serious accidents and delays to services.

Lead Author of the paper, Ali Mroue, stated: "With the possibility of trains, passengers and even poor lighting, in some instances, obscuring the view of CCTV cameras, radar techniques could certainly be effective in these scenarios."

One issue that is of particular concern to the rail industry at present is metal theft, including signalling cables, barriers and tracks, with Network Rail reporting that it is costing more than £19 million a year and is causing widespread disruption to commuters and businesses.

In order to combat the rising problem of metal theft, which is not just affecting the rail network, but also religious buildings, with tiles stolen from roofs across the country, the government is looking into the possibility of banning cash payments for scrap.

The British Transport Police recently reported the launch of a pilot scheme in the north-east that is intended to combat metal theft in the region.

Entitled Operation Tornado, it is a collaboration between a number of agencies that will improve the ability of authorities to trace stolen metal through an identification initiative.

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