“Passengers want to travel safely and easily above and below ground, and to access their devices without interruption. Therefore, they expect the same connectivity on their commute as they do everywhere else: work, home, or on the move.”

Within rail and metro, the digital technology revolution has introduced a wide range of improvements. For instance, 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 can now call on a host of technologies to ensure passengers are safe and secure. BAI Communications’ technology is enabling those improvements.

Andrew Conway, UK director of engineering at the company, shares how we have  partnered with transport authorities around the world to use connectivity to keep passengers safe from harm.

SafeTTC app for passengers to report safety concerns

In Toronto, for the city’s largest transport provider, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), BAI Communications provides the Wi-Fi connectivity that powers TTC’s app-based reporting system, SafeTTC. SafeTTC enables passengers to directly alerts TTC’s control centre, helping to protect them against a range of threats. This is a quick and discreet method for reporting harassment, safety concerns and other suspicious activity.

“The Safe TTC app is a great example of the tangible benefits ubiquitous mobile coverage offers authorities and passengers. Whether it’s anti-social behaviour or more serious incidents, ability to report concerns instantly and discreetly gives passengers peace of mind, while helping transit operators and police address situations effectively,” says Ken Ranger, CEO of BAI Communications in 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. A ‘Call Police’ button connects the user directly to deal with immediate emergencies.

The app also allows the TTC to collect anonymised data that identifies trends and informs how safety and security resources are deployed.

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'Help Point' safety intercoms for passengers

‘Help Point’ safety intercoms have multiple uses for passengers

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 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 thousands of Help Point intercoms on platforms and walkways throughout the NYCT Subway system. Consequently, passengers can directly call emergency services at the NYCT’s Rail Control Center, which can dispatch emergency personnel. The intercoms also offer an option to connect to station agents for less critical inquiries, like travel information.

Furthermore, Transit Wireless designed, built, financed and operates the cellular and Wi-Fi network in all 280 active underground subway stations. Moreover, this is one of the most highly trafficked networks in North America. New Yorkers have used the public safety system very effectively from the time public connectivity made it available.

“Public safety is a critical application for the subway, where 5.7 million locals and visitors ride each day. Thus, supporting MTA’s vision, we worked with our wireless carrier partners to deploy the necessary network capacity and scalability for current and future public safety applications,” said former CEO of Transit Wireless, William Bayne Jr.

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On-board wireless CCTV improves passengers' safety
On-board wireless CCTV improves passengers’ safety

For Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR), BAI Communications designed and installed radio systems used to safeguard the public and keep a watchful eye across its fleet and operations. In December 2016, MTR opened the South Island Extension connecting the city’s 18 district areas. The extension introduced a new fleet of driverless trains – second only to Disneyland Resort’s line in the region, which launched in 2005.

Using our communications network, MTR remotely monitors driverless train activity using real-time wireless CCTV.  The in-train CCTV camera is automatically triggered by system alarms and passenger alerts, or manually from the central control centre.

The powerful wireless network also enables MTR to communicate with passengers who trigger alarms to request urgent assistance.

BAI Communications has 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.

“Our contribution to the South Island Line East extension is an interesting case study. It clearly demonstrates how different radio platforms can support public safety efforts and metro operations,” says Paul Chan, managing director of BAI Communications in Hong Kong.

“Safety monitoring on driverless trains clearly demonstrates how connectivity enables innovation in public transport and public safety.”

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Passengers have access to five Gbps capacity at 600 Mbps speed
Five Gbps capacity at 600 Mbps speed

BAI also designed and built a similar radio system on Hong Kong’s West Island Line for MTR, FSD and HKP. This included an integrated mobile network with 2G, 3G and 4G multiple inputs and multiple output antennas (MIMO). Consequently, BAI established public mobile coverage in tunnels as well as stations. Additionally, the network provides 4-5 Gbps of data capacity enabling access speeds up to 600 Mbps (depending on handset and time of day). This is fast enough to download a high definition movie in around 30 seconds.

Wireless CCTV on platforms provides real-time platform video transmission to the train driver monitoring system. Thus, train drivers monitor platform status directly, having visibility to check platform clearance before closing train doors.

Technology and connectivity make commuting safer

“Rider safety is certainly paramount in rail and metro environments. Hence, a powerful network is essential for seamless transport operations and managing potential emergency situations effectively,” says Andrew Conway.

“Passengers want to travel safely and easily above and below ground, and to access their devices without interruption. Therefore, they expect the same connectivity on their commute as they do everywhere else: work, home, or on the move. The technology that enables this already exists. So all you need is the right infrastructure partner to make it happen,” he concludes.