Responding to Railway Security Through Partnerships

Next Generation Communications Blog

Responding to Railway Security Through Partnerships

By Erin Harrison

In the face of global threats and terrorist acts, collaboration and sharing best practices can help railway operators optimize their security capabilities. In addition, improving rail security by upgrading communications capabilities allows railroad providers a single, high-capacity network that can support multiple applications.  In fact, such new applications improve the transportation experience for customers and enable railroads to keep existing riders and attract new ones.

A recent Alcatel-Lucent article in its TrackTalk e-zine for railways communications enttitled, “Partnerships are the key to a secure railway,” looked at how the rail industry is responding to the security challenges of the 21st century with solutions such as IP MPLS broadband networks and CCTV systems.

Some key highlights from the article include:

  • Security strategies need to be continually reviewed to adequately address dynamic threats
  • Surveillance measures are often determined by specific local and national requirements
  • Partnerships and collaboration are critical

As the article points out, customarily, metro and main line critical infrastructure for rail networks has been based on complete yet inflexible systems designed to move data through fiber optic and microwave transmissions.  However, with the world becoming more risky and threats occurring in possibly unorthodox manners, including such things as cyber attacks, a premium is now being placed on communications flexibility to ensure responsiveness in an effective and timely manner.

It is for this reason, as the article details, that security strategies need to be continuously updated.  As Jacques Colliard, head of the Security Division of the International Union of Railways (UIC), says however, this updating and the need for flexibility must be done in the context of country and cultural difference.  In other words, solutions cannot generically be transferred from one place to another they need to be adaptable.

Colliard continued citing that ideally operators will collaborate to discover best practices, however, variance in local conditions and requirements means the application of security technology varies widely around the world and therefore the standardization of systems is an unlikely goal.  “Rail security systems cannot be entirely standardized because they need to meet specific regulatory and operational needs at a national and local level,” he explained.

This is by no means meant to say that partnerships and collaboration are ineffective.  In fact, quite the opposite is true.  The idea is to take what works in one place, and adapt it to local conditions.  However, given the communications-intensive nature of public safety capabilities for use by public transportation authorities, especially for things like the expansion of deployment of video surveillance systems, legacy communications network are increasingly not up to the task. 

This is why Alcatel-Lucent and leading transportation agencies, with a push from their public safety executives, are focusing on a new critical wide area network (WAN) infrastructure as part of a roadmap to an all IP-based network of the future.

It is a WAN solution that relies on a converged IP/MPLS-based communications to support network resiliency, quality of service, virtualization, synchronous Ethernet, convergence and a management platform that automates and simplifies operations management.  It also can be easily integrated with new 4G LTE networks. These wireless networks are being deployed to provide vital communications links for video surveillance, other machine-to-machine (M2M) monitoring solutions and improved customer on-board experiences.  

In fact, as can be seen from reading other TrackTalk features in the most recent issue, new wired and wireless networks not only enable railway operators to offer improved protection of physical assets and passengers, but also enable faster and more effective response capabilities in case of an emergency whether it be local or more widespread.  

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