Hi-tech surveillance system helps Gautrain combat crime
The Gautrain Management Agency (GMA) has increased the number of hi-tech CCTV cameras deployed across the Gautrain’s 10 stations to 1 000, in efforts to tighten security.
Kesagee Nayager,marketing and communications executive at Bombela Concession Company, which operates the Gautrain Rapid Rail System, told ITWeb the latest addition to the sophisticated CCTV network is part of the company’s digital strategy to ensure safe and secure travel for commuters, while helping law enforcement units to detect various crimes.
The GMA has been on a strong digital transformation offensive since 2008, when the Bombela Consortium invested R1 billion towards its IT initiatives, which resulted in the implementation of the train design, upgraded electronic and communication systems at the control centre, as well as advanced electronic systems fitted across all its stations.
“As the first rapid-rail system in SA, Gautrain became a brand synonymous with speed, efficiency and cutting-edge technology. To maintain this brand image, we know that we have to continuously improve on our business processes by, among other things, utilising digitisation as a competitive advantage,” explains Nayager.
“With 1 000 CCTV cameras installed across the system, we are able to offer customers peace of mind, safety and security, which is of paramount importance to us. The sophisticated surveillance system assists with proactively scanning our environments to identify any potential risks and also helps the relevant authorities, for example, the SAPS, with investigations that may arise.”
A train generally consists of four or eight Bombardier Electrostar rail cars, each fitted with a few face recognition-enabled CCTV cameras, feeding data to an on-board DVD recording system.
The images are stored locally, and may also be viewed on the intelligent display unit in the driver's cab. An audio system supports two-way passenger emergency communication between alarm units in the passenger areas and the driver in the active cab.
There is also direct communication between the Midrand-based intelligent operation centre, the police's nearby 10111 emergency contact centre and the Gauteng Provincial Disaster Management Centre.
“Digitisation is about making more effective use of available data. As Gautrain, we embrace the need to evolve and continuously improve – improve the way we engage with our customers, improve the level of service we offer to customers, improve communication systems and synergy with other essential services,” notes Nayager.
There are currently 24 Electrostar Sets that form part of the Gautrain’s railway fleet. These run from 10 stations through Johannesburg and Pretoria. The main stations are Johannesburg Park Station, OR Tambo International Airport and Pretoria Station. The other stations are Centurion, Hatfield, Marlboro, Midrand, Rhodesfield, Rosebank and Sandton, which the GMA says have been strategically placed throughout the busiest parts of the metropolis.
Aboard the 24 train sets is an automatic train protection system that monitors the trains' top speed limit of 160km per hour, as well as every lesser speed limitation, which is pre-set for every single metre of track.
“The world in which we operate is constantly changing and innovating at a pace so rapid that the technologies we employ and the services we offer today just as quickly become obsolete tomorrow. For this reason, we embrace digitisation and the changes that come about as a result of it,” continues Nayager.
Since the initiation of the project in 2000, GMA says numerous achievements have been reached in line with its objectives. These include socioeconomic development achievements and a positive impact on SA’s economy at large.
The Gautrain project created 35 000 direct job opportunities during construction and 10 900 direct operational employment positions.
Gautrain on a digital offensive
In February 2008, former Gauteng MEC for transport Ismail Vadi unveiled the new version of the Gautrain mobile app and a restructured Web site.
The app has a variety of features, enabling passengers to plan their trips in advance, manage their profiles and load funds, purchase cards in bulk and monitor their Gautrain transaction history.
“The Gautrain Web site and mobile app are also highly interactive tools that we developed on a strong technological foundation. The new Web site allows customers to make online refund requests, which can now be processed at a speed of up to 70%, thereby improving the customer experience. Other features include the ability to track a Gautrain bus, determine the fare from station to station, and to calculate the estimated time of arrival.”
In October, GMA introduced a technology that allows Gautrain commuters to use their credit or debit cards to tag in and out of stations, buses and parking facilities.
The company also launched LiveChat, a communication service that enables customers to chat with a member of the customer care team in real-time.
“When Gautrain first began operating some 10 years ago, customers had two official ways in which to engage with us – they could either call our customer care centre or write to us via our online contact us page.
“Today, we actively use social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, in addition to LifeChat, to provide a multi-channel communication service in real-time. These are some of the ways in which we embrace technology to better serve our customers,” adds Nayager.
The GMA is currently working on the development of new stations at Modderfontein, Samrand and Waterfall, as well as the commercialisation of Centurion and Marlboro Stations.
The GMA says it is also planning to further extend the Gauteng Rapid Rail network via the construction of new stations, with the system expected to expand across the Gauteng province and support better integration.