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Securing rail assets with smart padlocks

Strict access control regulations must be followed by rail companies to ensure the safety of passengers, employees, contractors. Rail infrastructure also needs electronic access control to prevent unauthorized access, vandalism, or theft.




Access control regulations are in place for rail companies to ensure the safety and security of passengers, employees, contractors, property and infrastructure. Strict safety and access procedures must be followed, authorization must be obtained, and appropriate training must be completed before individuals are permitted to access railway lines and assets, which can be dangerous.


In the USA, the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) provides guidance to rail companies on managing access control to railway premises, covering risk assessments, security measures, access control technology and processes, and staff training.


Railway lines have been designed with several access points, which are intended to provide general staff and contractors with safe and regulated entry to the tracks and facilities. For instance, railway stations, yards, and depots can serve as access points for maintenance workers, contract repairers, and regulators, who must comply with strict safety and access protocols while working on or around trains and/or on rail infrastructure. Other individuals who may require regular access to railway lines and facilities include emergency service workers, construction workers, government officials conducting inspections, and railway enthusiasts.


Apart from entry/exit points for personnel accessing railway lines and facilities, rail workers and contractors must also gain access to crucial rail infrastructure such as signal boxes, switch boxes, and electricity boxes. Additionally, other boxes and cabinets inside rail lines that workers need regular access to include telecom cabinets, data cabinets, points heating cabinets, trackside equipment cabinets, signage cabinets, and crossing control cabinets. These infrastructure components must be appropriately secured, and access to them must be controlled to ensure the safe and efficient functioning of train networks. The number of electricity boxes, cabinets or substations required depends on factors such as the electrification of the railway line. Railway networks and land can vary from small local lines to large national networks stretched over thousands of square kilometres, and the number of cabinets and boxes holding infrastructure to operate these networks can be extensive.


Regular maintenance and inspection of the equipment inside these cabinets and boxes are necessary to ensure that they are working correctly and in good condition. It's crucial to secure these boxes and cabinets with the best locks and access control systems to prevent unauthorized access, vandalism, or theft whilst at the same time being efficient and convenient. Unauthorized access to these cabinets can not only cause equipment damage, rail operation failures, and stop the trains from running, but can also pose serious safety risks to employees, contractors and passengers.

railway equipment cabinets



Rail Safety and Standards Boards have set access control regulations that pose significant challenges for rail companies, particularly regarding the management of metal key locks and tracking systems. Rail companies have to manage a large number of metal keys for their infrastructure, and ensuring that only authorized personnel receive them can be complex. The risk of key duplication is high, and accountability for all keys is critical, requiring proper documentation and record-keeping. Lost or stolen keys can create security vulnerabilities, necessitating immediate reporting and appropriate action to prevent unauthorized access such as changing the locks. Proper maintenance of keys and mechanical locks is also essential, requiring regular cleaning, lubrication, and replacement of worn or damaged keys and cylinders.


Additionally, rail companies must comply with regulations to track all personnel movements on rail lands, which can cover vast areas with multiple access points, making it difficult to track individuals in real-time. Implementing a tracking system requires significant investment in infrastructure and technology, including sensors, software, and online data storage systems. The tracking systems need to be integrated with other systems such as access control and work scheduling to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the rail network. Various methods are currently used, such as manual sign-in procedures, ID cards, communication systems, sensors placed along the tracks, automated sign-in/ID printing kiosks, and mobile phone apps. However, mobile phone apps for tracking employees raise legal issues such as privacy concerns, employee consent, data protection, discrimination, and fair labor standards. With all the tracking systems, but particularly with mobile apps, employers must comply with relevant laws and regulations, protect employee rights and privacy, and ensure that collected data is confidential, protected, and used only for legitimate business purposes. Off-duty conduct by employees must not be monitored or disciplined using tracking data and mobile apps, and employers must not discriminate based on tracking data. Employers must also ensure that tracking accurately reflects employee work hours, and employees are appropriately compensated for all hours worked.

self service kiosk



Digital Keys is working with rail companies to build a connected access control and tracking solution with 5G IoT technology to meet their challenges. The solution offers a 5G IoT smart access control system that is easy to use, requires no onsite power or equipment, has long battery life, integrates with existing software and rail company practices with APIs, and is reliable and connects 'out of the box.' The system provides real-time tracking/sign-in, meets regulations and legal requirements, and can also be automated, providing convenience and efficiencies. Digital Keys 5G IoT smart padlock and smart door locks connect to the internet, the cloud, and other 5G IoT smart locks over cellular networks, providing connected access control and automated tracking without the need for additional onsite equipment or network infrastructure. In other words our smartlocks know who is opening which lock at what time in real-time and notifications can be sent to managers immediately. The data can also be used in big data analytics and with other technology tools such as AI. The access control system can also be used with employees scheduling/shifts, route planning and other security and control features.

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