CCTV – a multi-purpose tool within public transport

Posted: 3 May 2016 | | No comments yet

Thomas Kritzer – Head of the Department for Security and Service at Wiener Linien – gives an overview of the approach and use of CCTV for Vienna’s public transport network, highlighting its operational benefits and how the arrival of new technology can provide greater security advantages in the future.


In the history of public transport, most recently with the development of huge metro systems as a very technical orientated rail system, the word ‘mass’ in mass transport had a significant impact on the supervision and control of a system. With the start of the modern Viennese metro system in 1978, huge infrastructure buildings were needed for metro operations to be able to carry many thousands of passengers. For the development of self-dispatching procedures for the train driver it was necessary to give the staff an additional ‘guardian’ for their supervising procedures. Vienna decided to equip all metro stations with cameras on platforms, at entrance areas, at ticket vending machines and at escalators.

Since 2006 the CCTV standard in Vienna was further developed for the metro system. Today all areas are covered by CCTV systems, including the inside of elevators.

Three pillars

It is evident every day that the technology of CCTV must be integrated as a tool in holistic procedures for controlling and supervising a system. CCTV equipment alone only has maximum impact when being embedded in good procedures and supervised by well trained staff. The three pillars of security and safety must interact to deliver the best outcome – those of: Humans, procedures and technology. In Vienna such an holistic approach to utilising emergency devices is giving the best results for customers and staff. If the emergency device (audio communication) on a platform is pulled, the supervisor gets additional information (visual) via the picture of the CCTV system, often by using a PTZ camera, which automatically zooms on the person using the intercom, to be able to give the best support in an emergency situation. Staff are then able to react as specifically as possible to the needs of the situation and can even support emergency forces, being on site, as additional information to the normal audio communication is given to the staff via the CCTV picture.

Safety first

After the CCTV system in Vienna’s public transport evolved from the necessary procedures to dispatch the train by the driver, it became a daily tool for Vienna’s Metro. It was no longer only a necessary tool for the driver; the CCTV pictures also became an important tool for the control centre to supervise operations, given that they also receive additional visual and real-time information on the situation and status of operations. The signal box and supervising staff are able to react to disturbances and unusual situations outside. The architecture of the control centre in Vienna provides staff with an immediate direct view of difficult areas, as CCTV monitors were situated in the new control room directly above their working places in the control room and specific camera positions of the signal boxes lines are selected by staff themselves for the screens. As CCTV coverage improved it is now possible for the supervisors to have access to all stationary cameras in Vienna’s metro system from the metro operations control centre. All pictures are accessible at the monitors of their working places, to enable them to follow specific situations and make relevant decisions based on the maximum information from the system.

Assessing situations and incidents

With the option of an ‘electronic eye’ that supports staff outside, it also proved to be a useful tool in assessing situations in the network. In the Viennese metro system it is unthinkable to work without cameras covering platforms and other parts of the station. In high traffic systems like Vienna, supervisors in the control centre need the pictures to be able to preview – and possibly prevent – upcoming disturbances, assess potentially challenging situations such as overcrowding in peak hours and especially critical situations during incidents. As specific pictures of relevant areas are always on the monitors, CCTV gives staff the opportunity of real-time assessment. This system requires well-trained staff, being especially familiar with the local situation, to be located in the stations and with the appropriate camera positions to decide on alternative options during operations.

Technology has evolved in recent decades and, especially for assessing situations, new camera types such as PTZ cameras were installed. In Vienna’s metro system PTZ cameras are installed on platforms specifically to support network staff in emergency situations. They made it a lot easier for staff to get good information about a situation as they could select and follow the incident or situation from miles away. The cameras’ view of an incident also helps both internal and external emergency forces in evaluating critical situations in almost real-time.

Big events

CCTV is the backbone for on-site staff or in the control room during big events. Wiener Linien can accommodate capacities of up to 24,000 customers per hour in one direction under specific circumstances. Therefore, the operating and control system in the local station – for example in the Viennese station at the football stadium – must work properly, because every disturbance causes a delay, or stop, thus reducing capacities. It is necessary to supervise entrance areas and staircases during transportation before and after the event to be able to react to every incident. Platforms need to be supervised via CCTV and staff on site; a combination of technology such as CCTV, humans and preplanned procedures bring the greatest success for safety and security issues. For this reason approximately 70 cameras were installed in all areas of the station and provide visual access to all staircases and areas where people are moving in or out. Especially during big events one characteristic of surveillance is a predictive methodology to avoid critical situations with forward-looking supervision by staff.

Additional security demands

CCTV systems that support safety issues became of greater value following the necessity to also supervise security incidents and situations. The development went parallel with additional necessities in assessing situations or incidents due to higher frequencies, which reduces flexibility on dense headways and big events taking place around public transport stations. When Wiener Linien changed its strategy for CCTV coverage within newly built stations in 2006 to cover almost all public areas of a metro station – including, for example, elevators – it showed that a number of security incidents could be supervised or later analysed with these new cameras. New procedures were developed to also be able to handle difficult situations, such as investigations of unattended items, with the use of CCTV. The recording opportunity improved the options for analysing security incidents such as vandalism or criminal incidents for Wiener Linien and later for police for investigation. A number of relevant cases in Vienna showed that these pictures helped investigations to catch perpetrators and were used in court. For this reason it became necessary to install huge recording capacities and increase the number of analysis staff at Wiener Linien to make the pictures quickly available for analysis and investigation.

Recording: support for investigation

What made the CCTV systems even more successful for external forces was the possibility to record pictures. This began with the evolving technology in storage capacities and digitalisation as well as the additional industry developments with cameras, transmission technology and camera resolutions. In Vienna vehicles also became equipped with CCTV cameras, making it possible to investigate incidents in trams, buses and metro trains; not only in stations. CCTV cameras provide customers with a greater sense of security about their system and also gives them trust in a surveillance system that has proven to be useful to Police investigations. Vienna is permanently recording all pictures from the vehicles and incrementally installing recording devices for the station’s cameras so that currently approximately 70% of all camera pictures are recorded for 48 hours.

Challenges and limitations

Naturally, when trying to get a good overview of the whole system the number of cameras increased. For the central metro control centre in Vienna it became a challenge to view all incoming pictures given that there are limited staff resources for supervising. The Viennese metro system currently has approximately 2,000 cameras suitable to be selected for the control centre. Well-trained staff that are familiar with the system’s architecture and camera positions are essential for effective use of the CCTV pictures on operations in real-time and also for carrying out analysis on the recordings following an incident. The usual procedure is to select pictures for the specific needs of an incident. During normal operation signal box staff try to get the best overview with CCTV pictures on their key areas, such as at interchanges. During incidents the relevant pictures are selected separately, without the broadcast for the signal boxes, to support the supervisors during the work and to get a best possible view of the situation outside.

Future – the arrival of new technology

We are already beginning to see a departure from the ‘TV’ in ‘CCTV’. Modern surveillance systems are coming up with various surveillance technologies. Infrared, heat image or sound detection have already been tested and will soon be in place for specific use, such as in intrusion detection or protection of critical infrastructure assets. Not only are new technologies in monitoring systematics emerging, but also new technology and procedures helping to overview the enormous amounts of data from cameras in systems. Detection and analysis software will be one of the next steps in better handling of incidents and detection of unusual situations. In Vienna various tests and demands of the supervising staff showed that software for the challenging situation of crowded platforms, high frequented areas and difficult circumstances – such as in huge train depots during the night – would be an important step forward in protecting operations and staff.


Thomas Kritzer is Head of the Department for Security and Service at Wiener Linien. His department is responsible for security issues concerning customers, staff, operations and infrastructure, plus strategic security developments, crisis management and security risk management. Thomas and his department are also in charge of ticket inspection, CCTV analysis, analysis of security incidents and prevention. Since 2008, Thomas has been a Member of Wiener Linien’s staff for Crisis Management and has participated in Wiener Linien’s risk analysis process. Thomas has been a Member of the UITP Security Commission since 2008; was its Vice-Chairman between 2009 and 2011 and then its Chairman from 2011 to 2015.

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