Western Railway beefs up security

Western Railway (WR) has added more teeth to its security, 15 months after the serial blasts which ripped through the suburban rail network killing over 200 people and injuring more than 750. Plans have been finalised to install 520 surveillance cameras across 30 suburban stations within the span of a month. The closed circuit camera television (CCTV) system is intended to keep an eye on movements on station premises and secure them against terror attacks.

The cameras will be installed at vantage points all along the 55-kilometre network from Churchage to Virar. They will provide footage on critical areas like platforms and ticketing counters, common areas like food stalls, entry and exit points, and ticket counters and the bridges connecting the platforms.

“The idea is to record everything and everyone at the station. The images will then be transmitted to a monitoring unit attached to the respective stations,” Satyaprakash, divisional railway manager, WR said.

Experts say a lot depend on where the cameras are positioned and maintained. In the US and UK, investigators have often been frustrated due to the fuzzy quality of the footage or due to lack of proper maintenance which has often led to the discovery of defunct cameras (see box: Spotlight).

The Rs 1.21-crore WR project is being executed by Zicom Electronic Security System Ltd, and the cameras are being acquired on annual lease basis. “The contractual obligations include replacing the cameras and providing technical support throughout the year,” he said.

Railways will deploy personnel from the Railway Protection Force (RPF) to monitor the CCTVs. “Currently, the RPF constables are forced to spend many idle hours at the stations as they do not have adequate tools for keeping a watch on the passengers. The CCTV cameras will make a big difference,” a senior railway official said.

While at smaller stations like, say, Jogeshwari and Mahim, the number of cameras installed will be around 14, but at big stations like Churchgate, Dadar and Andheri, around 25 cameras will be installed in various positions. “The images then will be beamed into separate TV monitors kept at the monitoring stations,” Satyaprakash said.

Security experts admit that it will be huge challenge to monitor 40 lakh commuters, 24×7, so closely. But they say the experience of the recent past has shown that CCTVs are a strong deterrent to terrorist outfits. The Iris camera with its varied focal length provides a bird’s eye view as well as close-up images of the object that is being tracked.

“The camera not only proves a deterrent for terrorists, but also in case they decide to do a dry run, the culprits will be caught on camera. Even if a blast occurs, the terrorist can be tracked down by the footage available,” said Ravikant Malhan, general manager, special projects, Zicom.

Zicom will also train RPF personnel to identify certain behavioural characteristics in commuters during critical situations while monitoring CCTV footage. Zicom has already installed the system for the metro in Kolkata and has imparted similar training to the railway force there.

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