Intrusion-Detection System Protects Workers and Trains

By Luke Abaffy

In an effort to prevent train accidents on a new $2.3-billion, 10-mile-long extension line in San Francisco, the Berryessa-Valley Transportation Authority/Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) team is installing a railroad intrusion-detection system (RIDS) that uses warning devices originally developed for protecting shipping ports from break-ins.

“We’re testing the system on a 5.2-miles stretch of track that runs parallel to the Union Pacific Railroad,” says Matt Shipman, systems engineering manager for PGH Wong Engineering Inc., San Francisco. Working on the project as part of the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority team, Shipman says this is the first application using a combination of tilt sensors on barrier fences and infrared cameras for intrusion detection on railroad track.

In addition to spotting intruders, the system also is designed to provide protection against accidents, such as the Amtrak derailment that occurred outside of Philadelphia last April, when a train struck a backhoe working beside the tracks, resulting in the deaths of two Amtrak workers and injuries to 35 passengers.

The system will identify a piece of equipment that finds its way onto BART’s tracks, and the trains will be issued an immediate halt command, says Timothy Schmidt, senior associate and director in northern California for Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam, the design manager.

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