"Passengers want to experience the same connectivity on their commute as they do everywhere else, whether at work, at home or on the move. They also want to travel safely and easily above and below ground, accessing the information they need reliably and without interruption."
Within rail and metro, the digital technology revolution has introduced a wide range of improvements to passenger journeys including cellular and Wi-Fi connectivity, ticketless travel and on-board entertainment. However, there is another area for which digital is offering huge improvements for the passengers, and this is the issue at the top of the news agenda: safety.
Rail and transport authorities are now able to call upon a whole host of technologies to ensure their passengers are kept safe and secure – BAI Communications is enabling those improvements.
Andrew Conway, UK director of engineering at the company, gives details on how @BAIComms and transport authorities around the world have partnered to use connectivity to keep passengers out of harm’s way.
App to report safety concerns
In Toronto for the city’s largest transport provider, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), BAI Communications provided the Wi-Fi connectivity that enabled the TTC’s app-based reporting system, SafeTTC. SafeTTC enables users to pass direct alerts to the transport authority and helps protect passengers against a range of different threats. It does this by offering a quick and discreet method for reporting harassment, safety concerns or suspicious activity directly to TTC’s control centre.
“The Safe TTC app is a great example of the tangible benefits ubiquitous mobile coverage can provide to both authorities and passengers. Whether it’s anti-social behaviour or a more serious incident, the facility to report concerns instantly and discreetly gives passengers peace of mind while helping transit operators and the police to address the situation effectively,” says Ken Ranger, CEO of BAI Canada.
Users of the app can send photos, videos and text using drop-down menus enabling the app’s operators to collect pin-point-accurate information. Immediate emergencies are dealt with using a Call Police button that connects the user directly to the authorities.
The app also allows the TTC to collect anonymised data which will be used to identify trends that can inform the deployment of safety and security resources across the network.
Help Point intercoms
Transit Wireless, a BAI Communications majority-owned company, has applied its network expertise to help New York City Transit (NYCT) and emergency first responders communicate more effectively in its underground subway stations. The public safety network supported by Transit Wireless’ infrastructure on behalf of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), uses its 4.9 GHz band to connect the thousands of Help Point intercoms located on platforms and walkways throughout the NYCT Subway system. The intercoms enable passengers to place a direct call to emergency services at the NYCT’s Rail Control Center, which can dispatch emergency personnel. The intercoms also offer customers an option to connect to station agents for less critical inquiries, like travel information.
Transit Wireless designed, built, financed and now operates the NYCT Subway’s cellular and Wi-Fi communications network in all 280 active underground subway stations – one of the most highly trafficked networks in North America. Since public connectivity was made available, New Yorkers have used the accompanying public safety system to great effect.
“We believe public safety is a critical application within the New York City subway environment, where 5.7 million local and visiting customers ride each day. In support of the MTA’s vision, we partnered with our wireless carrier partners to deploy the requisite network capacity and scalability for current and future public safety applications,” says William Bayne, Jr., CEO of Transit Wireless.
On-board wireless CCTV
For Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR), RFE, a BAI Communications company, designed and installed radio systems used by MTR staff to safeguard the public and keep a watchful eye across its fleet and operations. In December 2016, MTR opened the South Island Extension connecting all the city’s 18 district areas. With the extension came the introduction of a new fleet of driverless trains – only the second unmanned train in the region since Disneyland Resort’s line was launched in August 2005.
Thanks to the communications network designed and built by RFE, the MTR can remotely monitor the train activity using real-time wireless CCTV. The in-train CCTV camera can be automatically triggered and footage relayed by system alarms, passenger alerts or manually by MTR operators located in its central control centre.
The powerful wireless network also enables the MTR to remotely communicate with those passengers who have pushed live alarm buttons to request urgent assistance. RFE also built public safety radio systems for the Fire Services Department (FSD) and Hong Kong Police (HKP), creating a dedicated communications system between emergency services.
“The work we provided for the South Island Line East extension clearly demonstrates how different radio platforms can be deployed in public transport system to support public safety efforts and metro operations,” says Paul Chan, managing director of RFE.
“The new fleet of trains are fully driverless, with no MTR personnel on board. Safety is paramount, however, and is maintained via real-time passenger information and CCTV footage that is monitored remotely. This clearly demonstrates how a connected network on a public transport system can enable innovation in rail, improve public safety, operations and monitoring."
Five Gbps capacity at 600 Mbps speed
RFE also designed and built a similar radio system on Hong Kong’s West Island Line to provide radio services for MTR operations, FSD and HKP. An integrated mobile network with 2G, 3G and 4G multiple inputs and multiple output antennas (MIMO) were also installed, providing public mobile coverage in the stations and tunnels of the West Island Line. The network typically provides passengers with between four and five Gbps of data capacity enabling access speeds of up to 600 Mbps (depending on the handset and time of day), which is fast enough to download a high definition movie in around 30 seconds.
Wireless CCTV also has been deployed on platforms to provide real-time platform video transmissions to the train driver monitoring system. The system allows the driver of each train to monitor the platform status directly from the driving seat, providing sufficient visibility to check for platform clearance before closing the train doors.
Technology and connectivity enabling a safer commute
“Rider safety is paramount in rail and metro environments. Underpinning this is a high-quality, robust network which is essential as it facilitates seamless transport operations and efficient management of potential emergency situations”, says Andrew Conway.
“Passengers want to experience the same connectivity on their commute as they do everywhere else, whether at work, at home or on the move. They also want to travel safely and easily above and below ground, accessing the information they need reliably and without interruption. The technology required to enable this already exists, and all that’s needed is the right infrastructure partner to make it happen,” he concludes.
For more information on BAI Communications, and other examples of making transport safer, visit the company website. You may also enjoy these articles: