Critical Progress on Rail Safety and Accountability

Critical Progress on Rail Safety and Accountability

As local, state and federal environmental agencies continue to address air, water and soil quality concerns on the ground in East Palestine, Ohio, the U.S. Department of Transportation is proposing major investments in rail safety and rail infrastructure, as well as highlighting continued work to hold Norfolk Southern accountable and make our railways safer.

Biden’s recently announced FY 2024 Budget included calls for an investment of more than $1 billion to expand DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration’s core safety efforts and improve critical rail infrastructure:

• $273.5 million to support the agency’s railroad safety personnel, expand critical inspection and audit capabilities, enhance data analysis to better identify the root causes of railroad safety incidents, and increase stakeholder outreach and partnerships to address and eliminate threats to public safety.

• $760 million for both the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program and Railroad Crossing Elimination program to provide additional dedicated grant funding to improve nearly all facets of railroad safety, including upgrading track, rolling stock, and signal systems; supporting railroad employee safety training programs; and preventing railroad trespassing and highway-rail grade crossing collisions.

• $59 million for a cross-cutting Research & Development program to advance new technologies and practices to improve railroad safety.

Additionally, DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration took multiple steps to hold Norfolk Southern accountable and make our railways safer:

• This week the Federal Railroad Administration announced it is conducting a supplemental safety assessment of Norfolk Southern Railway following multiple safety incidents. The safety assessment will exceed the scope of existing FRA audits and take an expansive look at Norfolk Southern’s overall safety culture and operations. Information will be used to target specific areas for FRA’s oversight and enforcement efforts and identify risks beyond the reach of current federal regulations. FRA will use the information to push Norfolk Southern to develop measures to mitigate risks while identifying any appropriate enforcement actions. FRA will issue a public report with findings.

• Concurrently, the U.S. Department of Transportation is calling on Norfolk Southern to engage its employees and management around safety in order to protect workers and communities following Norfolk Southern incidents in Reed, PA, Bessemer, AL, Sandusky, OH, East Palestine, OH, Springfield, OH, and Cleveland, OH. Restoring public confidence, especially in the communities in which Norfolk Southern operates, requires action beyond the six-point safety plan the company announced March 6.

• FRA issued a Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that would require railroads to provide emergency escape breathing apparatus to train crews and other employees when transporting certain hazardous materials.

These announcements build on previous progress including:

• Bipartisan legislation: The Senate proposal, endorsed by President Biden, includes provisions that Secretary Buttigieg called for as part of a three-part drive, like increasing fines on industry for safety violations, strengthening rules for trains carrying hazardous materials, increasing funding for hazmat training, accelerating the timeline to phase in more robust tank cars, and ensuring a two-person crew minimum on trains.

• Targeted Track Inspections: DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced targeted track inspections, focusing on routes that carry hazardous materials, that will start in East Palestine and expand nationwide.

• Rail Worker Whistleblower Program: After Secretary Buttigieg pressed them, all seven Class I freight railroads have agreed to participate in the Confidential Close Call Reporting System (C3RS) program for rail employees to help prevent safety issues.

• Meeting with labor leaders: USDOT leadership gathered leaders from unions representing tens of thousands of rail employees to hear safety concerns, both short- and long-term. USDOT’s three-part approach includes a push to guarantee paid sick leave for all rail workers.

• Safety Advisory for Tank Car Covers: DOT’s Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) acted on initial findings from the independent investigator (NTSB) into the Norfolk Southern derailment and issued a safety advisory notice for tank car covers.

• Safety Advisory for Hot Bearing Wayside Detectors: FRA urged railroads using hot bearing detectors (HBDs) to evaluate their inspection process, prioritize the proper training and qualification of personnel working with HBDs, and improve the safety culture of their organizations.

• Safety Advisory for Emergency Response Plans: PHMSA urged all railroad operators to create and maintain emergency response plans for the transport of hazardous materials, strengthen the accessibility of the AskRail system, and inform PHMSA when they identify responders who are not able to access PHMSA’s grant-funded training.

• Investments in Rail Safety: In the first year of the bipartisan infrastructure law FRA invested over $370M in safety improvements to physical infrastructure including nearly $190M for upgrades to tracks. Later this year FRA will make awards for the new Railroad Crossing Elimination Program and the next round of the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program.

Port of Melbourne Welcomes Investment in Somerton Intermodal Terminal

Port of Melbourne Welcomes Investment in Somerton Intermodal Terminal

Intermodal Terminal Company says its investment in the Somerton Intermodal Terminal will complement Port of Melbourne’s $125 million Port Rail Transformation Project and the Victorian Government’s Port Rail Shuttle Network.

The Port Rail Shuttle Network will develop or upgrade rail connections and metropolitan intermodal terminals in key industrial areas, including Somerton. The Port of Melbourne says mode shift from road to rail transport will be key for sustainability reasons as well as productivity benefits. The port believes moving freight by rail is better for the climate, it is better in terms of safety, taking trucks off local roads and reducing congestion.

Moving freight by rail can move far more containers in a single trip than trucks can, the group says. For example, a 600-meter-long train can carry 84 containers compared with a B-Double truck which has an average capacity of three containers.

Boost Security, NOT COSTS

Boost Security, NOT COSTS

There is no doubt that new access/surveillance technology and advanced security monitoring solutions can improve security everywhere from airports and bus stations to mass transit, trucking and trains. At the same time, it is possible to improve security at any location without increasing costs. Here’s how to do it.

Adapt Your Security SOPs to Reality

All major transportation facilities have some sort of security infrastructures in place, along with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to direct staff on how to manage and maintain these facilities.

In theory, all the staff have to do is to follow these SOPs to keep their facilities secure. In practice, however, this often doesn’t happen. One major reason: “A lot of the time when you find that staff [are] not following correct SOPs, [it] may be an indication that the SOPs are wrong,” said Shannon Wandmaker, director of Cain Wandmaker Aviation Security Consulting ( “Obviously it can be an indication of other things as well — poor training, low staff morale, challenging work environment — but along with looking at those factors, security managers should remember to review the SOPs themselves, and to discuss the SOPs with the staff who are implementing them.”

Shannon Wandmaker
Shannon Wandmaker

Often the fixes being used by staff achieve the intent of the SOPs, even if they don’t follow them. This disconnect can occur because SOPs are often developed using a top-down approach, Wandmaker noted. “The national requirements say we need to do X, so our security manual says to do X, so the SOPs says, ‘this is how to do X.’ However, if the front-line staff are doing Y, and that achieves the same security outcome and meets the national requirements, then let them continue doing Y, and change the SOPs.”

Rebecca Sherouse
Rebecca Sherouse

Working with security ‘workarounds’ that work achieves two goals. First, “it means the company doesn’t have to waste time and money re-training people to do something a different way for no reason,” said Wandmaker. Second, adopting staff-developed SOPs “also gives front-line staff an opportunity to be heard, and feel that they have contributed to the outcome, and that has the side benefit of improving staff morale and engagement. People are more likely to follow an SOP that they helped write, than follow one that was imposed on them.”

The HiveWatch GSOC Operating System is a cloud-based security fusion platform that works with existing security systems to empower global security operations center workers. The system, built for physical security teams, simplifies information gathering from numerous security systems using multi-sensor resolution and machine learning, the company says. HiveWatch images.
The HiveWatch GSOC Operating System is a cloud-based security fusion platform that works with existing security systems to empower global security operations center workers. The system, built for physical security teams, simplifies information gathering from numerous security systems using multi-sensor resolution and machine learning, the company says. HiveWatch images.

Global View

Turn Down the Noise

Remember the old fable of The Boy Who Called Wolf? In this tale, a boy shepherd enjoys riling up his neighbors by calling ‘Wolf!’ when there isn’t one. After a while, his fed-up neighbors stopped heeding his calls, even when an actual wolf attacked the flock and ate them — and in some versions of the story, the shepherd as well.

This same scenario plays out today in transportation security. “Most transportation security hubs — such as airports, mass transit and ports — have global security operations centers (GSOCs) that provide security oversight for these locations,” explained Rebecca Sherouse, director of account management and security advisory at HiveWatch (, a cloud-based SaaS platform built for physical security teams). “But almost all of these are plagued with “noise” — that is, false incoming alarms that detract from actual events that are occurring. As a result, GSOC operators are overwhelmed and become desensitized to incoming alerts, which can result in missed events and/or emergencies across the transportation sector.”

The solution to this problem? Reduce the number of false alarms due to proper equipment maintenance, a resetting of triggering thresholds so that alarms aren’t being set off by animals and natural phenomena, and any other adjustments that make sense. If security staff know that they can generally trust the alarm messages that they are receiving, they will be far more likely to respond to them.

A further way to cut down the noise is to modify GSOC operations to provide security staff with an integrated view of what’s going on across all of their facilities, so that they can make rational and timely security responses without drowning in data.

Frederick Reitz
Frederick Reitz

Here’s the problem: “There are a lot of devices deployed across the transportation sector, from access control points with varying levels of access, to video surveillance across the entire facility/geographic area, to video management systems, to fire and intrusion detection points, and much more,” Sherouse said. Without some sort of integration platform in place to organize and prioritize this information. “The wealth of data coming out of these various devices and systems can quickly overwhelm physical security operators, who often have to navigate to multiple locations within a GSOC to correlate data, video and other information when conducting an investigation or responding to an alert,” she told TSI. “The biggest lapse for this industry is the inability to correlate all of the incoming data into a cohesive view for an operator designed to streamline response and provide the most accurate and up-to-date information that’s needed to facilitate decision-making.”

Cutting down on the noise while making security jobs more decision-oriented and less a case of passively watching monitors can also lead to more consistent GSOC staffing, expertise and performance. This is because “GSOC operators traditionally have a high rate of turnover because of the largely repetitive nature of the job,” said Sherouse. “Incoming alarms can exacerbate this by becoming a hindrance to response in many situations. This can lead to lower morale and high turnover, which can in turn lead to insufficient training to deal with emergencies as they happen. That’s the last thing that an organization wants when an incident arises — especially in such a critical sector.”

Replace Humans at Access Points with Machines

It is possible to buy new technology and improve security without increasing costs, once the money being saved by the technology’s operations is factored into the equation.

A case in point: “One of the major lapses that exists in transportation security is management of exit lanes and employee access lanes,” said Frederick Reitz, managing director of the aviation security firm SAFEsky. “Most airports have an exit area that must be manned by a security guard or TSA agent (in the U.S.). The standard cost for putting a security guard or TSA agent at an exit lane for 12 months averages approximately $250,000.”

Now, it would cost about $500,000 to replace that one guard with four exit lanes controlled by one automated terminal, he said. But do the math: “The investment of the automated secure exit lanes would pay for itself in two years,” said Reitz. After that, the money saved by not having a human guard would be a bonus.

That’s not all. “Automated lanes are an effective way to prevent access to the secured area,” he said. “They are always watching, and do not open if a person tries to enter from the wrong direction.” In contrast, a human guard requires breaks for meals and restroom use, and their attention can be diverted by passengers asking questions or a staged incident meant to distract them.

Training and Morale Matters

One reason why it is possible to improve security without raising costs is because humans operate security systems — and the training of these humans can be improved by simply executing existing training and morale support programs better. “Regardless of the quality of equipment in place, the quality of the people using that equipment will always be the determining factor on how well the equipment works,” observed Wandmaker. “A one million dollar piece of equipment, operated by someone who has had $1 of training, is worth $1.”

As for the fond hope that advanced technology can compensate for poor operator training and, by extension, poor management by those in charge of such operators? Don’t kid yourself: “No one puts a pilot with half an hour of training in charge of a brand new Airbus A350, no matter how technologically advanced the autopilot is,” Wandmaker said. “Similarly, if you want to get the best performance out of your security equipment, then you need to give the people using that equipment the best possible training and ongoing support.”

It’s ongoing support that organizations will often forget, he warned. Successful staff training does not mean delivering a course once and then never again. Instead, “it’s about initial training, refresher training, support and mentoring, creating career pathways (that include appropriate additional training for supervisors, managers, specializations), and a host of other things,” said Wandmaker. Ongoing support not only ensures staff skills don’t fade over time due to training neglect, but “that they feel like a valued part of the organization, and that their role is not just ‘a job’, but could be an actual career path for them if they wanted it.”

In saying this, Shannon Wandmaker acknowledged that every organization will have limitations in what they can deliver in terms of ongoing support for their staff, based on their size and revenue. “A large multinational manned guarding company will have far more scope to deliver ongoing training, mentoring and career pathways than a small transport and logistics company with three security officers on its books,” he said. “But it’s about doing what you can within each organization’s own reasonable financial and other limits.”

Frederick Reitz is another big believer in ongoing training and support. But he thinks its reach has to be extended to everyone in the organization whose job has an impact on facility security, not just the people manning the desks at the GSOC.

“To prevent lapses in security, it is important that airports and airlines conduct annual security training, through online training modules or in-person classes, to remind staff of the security procedures,” he said. After all, “airline and airport staff are a part of the security process, they are the eyes and ears of the security system. They need to be observant and watch for suspicious activity and unusual events at the airport, on the plane.” According to Reitz, training should include a reminder of facility security procedures, and access control regulations for staff on duty and off duty. Training should include current threat information and a reminder for staff to be aware of their surroundings.

Preventing a Return to Bad Habits

All of the ideas noted above can help improve facility security without boosting costs. But all of the effort required to implement them won’t be worthwhile if staff are allowed to slip back into bad habits six months down the road. This is why security managers have to be vigilant in maintaining the improvements they have made to date, and watchful for new ideas to implement going forward. “In an industry that is constantly addressing new and emerging threats — and taking action to determine the best way to address them — continuously updating response protocols and incorporating them into training of GSOC operators remains critical,” said Sherouse.

“Quality assurance and oversight: It doesn’t matter whether it’s a private organization or a State regulator, around the world one of the biggest areas where organizations let themselves down is quality assurance and oversight,” Wandmaker said. “Organizations put policies, rules, SOPs, guidance material in place, train their staff on it, and then fail to conduct effective QA. And then they wonder why their security outcomes are poor. Effective QA pays for itself, because in addition to identifying poor security outcomes and ensuring they’re corrected, it also allows organizations to review security settings on a regular basis to identify inefficiencies in systems. Good security has a layered approach, but great security ensures only the effective layers are kept.”

Taking the time to maintain security procedures, training, and staff morale is central to keeping bad habits at bay. “Lapses in security occur when we are in a hurry,” said Reitz.

Two examples prove his point. In the first, “as an airline security manager, I was called to the security checkpoint when a flight attendant, rushing for a flight after a layover, forgot she had a knife in her lunch bag,” Reitz said. “Initially, TSA wanted the flight attendant charged with introducing a prohibited item into the secure area. Fortunately, after investigating the circumstances, she was allowed to continue her flight — without her lunch bag.”

In the second instance, “an airport agent wanted to go to the gate and say goodbye to a friend, and used the employee entrance to the secure area,” he said. “This also could have resulted in a one-year suspension of the employee’s airport ID. [But] reasonable heads prevailed and a five-day suspension was given. Security training needs to include examples of these events to remind employees that procedures are in place for a reason, and that rushing often leads us to forgetting the importance of a procedure.”

Three Final Fixes

To conclude this article, the three security experts we interviewed were asked for three final security fixes.

Rebecca Sherouse recommended using “technology to identify and reduce false alarms that take valuable time away from security operators to respond to real emergency situations.”

Shannon Wandmaker said that transportation facilities need to review their security risk contexts statement (or create one, if they don’t already have one), and re-conduct their risk assessments to keep them relevant and useful. “What has changed? Are the threats the same as they were one year ago? Five years ago?” he said. “Are we defending against threats that don’t exist anymore, but not defending against emerging threats? For example, an organization may have previously been concerned about the impact of civil unrest in their country and how that could impact on their supply chains. However, the political situation has stabilized, but the company hasn’t removed the additional security measures. At the same time, they have missed the emergency of cyber security threats, and are grossly under-defended against this much more possible attack.”

Frederick Reitz offered a different view. “The single least expensive way to improve security is to keep staff involved,” he said. To make this happen, “security managers can provide newsletters, bulletins and briefings. Gathering the staff occasionally to have a security briefing not only keeps the importance of security in front of the staff but opens the doors for communication and gives them the opportunity to provide input.”

The bottom line: As this story shows, it is possible to improve security without increasing costs — right here and right now.

Security, Facilitation, Disability, Discrimination: What Happens When Security and Disability Collide

Security, Facilitation, Disability, Discrimination: What Happens When Security and Disability Collide

One Friday afternoon a man passed through Adelaide airport on his way home after a business trip. The man, who was blind from birth, was traveling with his guide dog.

At the airport security screening point — it is alleged — the man was rudely refused access to the body scanner, and was told to proceed through the walk-through metal detector, with his guide dog put through separately. He was then asked to submit to a pat-down search, though a colleague traveling with him questioned why it was required, as only his dog’s metal harness had triggered the alarm. A screening supervisor who was called over after the fact later agreed that only the dog needed the pat-down search.

The man stated later to the media that he felt humiliated and distressed by not being allowed to proceed through the body scanner and by his subsequent treatment, though by his own account he acknowledged it wasn’t the worst discrimination he’d ever faced.

However, it was, he noted, part of a pattern of discrimination he’d faced time and again when traveling through airport security screening points, which had included being physically pushed back through a body scanner by a screening officer and being on the receiving end of multiple disrespectful and negative comments.

Adelaide airport apologized for the incident. It was not in keeping with their expected high standards of customer service. Indeed, as they pointed out, the airport has a range of policies and programs in place to assist people with disabilities, including having a Guide Dogs trained dog based at the terminal to support travelers who needed extra assistance navigating the terminal.

The problem for Adelaide airport was that the businessman was Graeme Innes, the former Australian disability discrimination commissioner, former Australian human rights commissioner, and a member of the Order of Australia. He knew a thing or two about discrimination.

The problem for Mr. Innes was that the screening officers did nothing wrong. Apart from perhaps displaying less than optimal customer service skills, they were adhering to their standard operating procedures, which in turn had been derived from the legal requirements for screening in Australia.

And so, in a situation where the airport has systems in place to do the right thing, the screening officers involved were doing the right thing, and the passenger themselves was well traveled and well informed, how could it go so wrong, and why does it go so wrong so often?

The intersection between aviation security and facilitation is always a challenging one, and the balance between the smooth flow of passengers and the delivery of aviation security outcomes can be hard to achieve even when facilitating the movement of ‘able-bodied’ passengers from curbside to the aircraft.

So, what happens when passengers with disabilities (physical, psychological, obvious and hidden) arrive in this space?

There are no shortages of examples around the world of people with disabilities receiving less than optimal service at screening points. The inappropriate handling of passengers in wheelchairs, separation of people from their assistance animals, and subjecting people with sensory issues to physical searches being among the more commonly raised complaints.

Given around 20 percent of people have some form of disability, and given the often minimal training security screeners are given regarding the facilitation of passengers with a disability, what can screening providers and airports do to better meet the needs of this substantial slice of the traveling public?

Screening points are, at their core, not designed to accommodate difference, but are designed based on the somewhat shaky assumption that, give or take some height and weight differences, everyone who turns up at a screening point is basically the same, understands what is required of them, can prepare themselves unaided, and can ambulate unassisted through the screening process.

For the 45-year-old CEO who flies eight times a month, this is correct. But what about the retired 75-year-old who has never flown before? Even as an ‘abled-bodied’ passenger, his ability to navigate the screening process as an inexperienced passenger is not the same as the CEO.

Add in some other people: a father traveling with two young children, a tourist who doesn’t speak the language, a person traveling with the cremated remains of a loved one, a group of semi-intoxicated people on a rugby trip. All of these people present differently at a screening point, will have vastly different understandings of what is required of them, and vastly different capacities to comply.

Now, let’s mix in ‘obvious’ disabilities such as deafness or blindness, and people using wheelchairs or mobility aids who need additional time or help through the process. This adds an additional layer of complexity.

But we also need to consider that of the estimated 20 percent of travelers who have some form of disability, between 80 to 90 percent of them will have what is considered an invisible or hidden disability. This will include, amongst others, multiple sclerosis, autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, arthritis, brain injuries, bleeding disorders, mental illnesses, respiratory conditions, speech impairments, diabetes, epilepsy, anxiety, cognitive and learning disabilities, chronic pain, and fatigue.

It turns out people who turn up at screening points really aren’t the same at all.

On the screener side, then, there must be some sympathy.

The expectation that a screening officer, whose primary role is to ensure no threat to security makes it to the aircraft, is also going to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of every disability they may encounter, is unrealistic at best.

In addition, screeners also spend much of their poorly paid shift getting yelled at by people who didn’t know they can’t take a full water bottle through the screening point because the rule has only been in place for 15 years.

It’s probably also busy, and noisy, and the screening point is cramped, and three screeners are off sick, and staff turnover is 35 percent a year so most of the screeners are new.

And while there are some screening organizations that prioritize customer service and the passenger experience, the vast majority of screeners are focused on their primary task — protecting the aircraft from threats — and the customer experience is a secondary consideration.

Any wonder that occasionally a screener’s interpersonal and engagement skills with a person with a disability might not be the same as a Singapore Airlines first class cabin manager.

So, What’s the Solution?

While answers may come from a variety of sources, three key areas will be training, passenger differentiation and technology.

While better training of security staff is important, it’s unreasonable to expect screening officers to know every disability and how to address them. However, there are schemes in place in airports around the world that seek to give the airport community — not just the screeners — simple tools that help staff and a passenger with a disability to interact with each other in a more compassionate and understanding way.

The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower scheme, that finds its roots at Gatwick Airport and is now seen at airports and other transport hubs around the world, is a good example where, by displaying a small sunflower badge, passengers can discreetly indicate they have an invisible disability and may need some support, assistance or simply a little more time when moving through the airport.

The badge forewarns airport staff, and basic training gives them the skills to engage in an appropriate manner.

Having already identified that not everyone who presents at a screening point is the same, the next natural step is to differentiate people in sensible ways.

The simplest first step — space and resources permitting — is the implementation of a dedicated lane for people who need more time. This can include parents with prams, the elderly, people with mobility issues, blind or hearing-impaired people, or people who choose to self-select as needing more assistance.

Taking these people out of the main flow of screening has the dual effect of making other screening lanes more efficient, while at the same time taking pressure off those people who need more time so they don’t feel like they’re holding up the queue.

In addition, further passenger differentiation can be achieved using either real-time or advanced data techniques.

Real-time behavior-based differentiation, which involves a behavior detection officer differentiating passengers before screening, or technology-based differentiation such as automated behavior detection technologies and automated questioning at check-in kiosks, allows passengers considered to be higher risk to be identified and subjected to additional screening.

These techniques could also incorporate an element that would allow people to either self-select as needing assistance (in the case of check-in kiosks), or allow a behavior detection officer or other queue comber to direct people with disabilities to the appropriate screening lane.

Registered or trusted traveler programs such as the TSA Pre-Check system, in which a passenger provides data in advance that allows them to access expedited screening, could also incorporate disability information to give people access to a dedicated screening lane.

Technology will be part of the solution too, but it can be a double-edged sword.

In the Adelaide example, the implementation of body scanners has created categories of passengers who are excluded from their use. This has happened before. People with pacemakers are unable to use a walk-through metal detector, and people with prosthetic limbs almost always find themselves subject to a secondary search, for example.

In addition, most facilitation technology being implemented at airports is focused on removing face-to-face interaction. Online check-in, automatic baggage drop, passport e-gates and the introduction of new screening technology is all well and good for the seasoned traveler, but the opposite of what a person with a disability might require.

Disabled Passenger

The opportunity to tell an actual person, “I need a little more time, I’m having difficulty navigating this process, I’m becoming overwhelmed,” is not built into an automated system.

Seamless travel, automation and digitization can also isolate the elderly, people with learning challenges, and people from lower socio-economic backgrounds who have challenges accessing and interpreting technology.

Being able to go from curbside to aircraft without interacting with anyone is efficient if you’re willing, able, and know what you’re doing, but terrible if you need additional assistance.

If increased automation allows people to pass through the airport more smoothly and at a faster rate, it must also free up airport, airline, screening and immigration staff to be available to provide additional assistance to those who need it. More automation used as a tool to reduce staff numbers and human resource costs is not a recipe for better disability facilitation.

Unfortunately, in the short- to medium-term the situation will likely get worse before it gets better.

In the post-COVID aviation environment, staff shortages are resulting in significantly fewer staff, long queues, frustrated and angry passengers (and staff), and an overall less pleasant airport environment. Furthermore, those staff who are at work are generally newer and less experienced than those staff who were on-the-job pre-COVID. It will take years for staff numbers, and staff experience, to return.

In addition, as the aviation industry recovers from its unprecedented financial losses, investing in new technology is unlikely to be a priority in the near-term.

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel as, long term, accessibility continues to be an industry focus.

In August 2022, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) elevated from a recommendation to a standard the requirement that States ensure persons with disabilities receive the same services customarily available to the general public, and in September, Airports Council International (ACI) launched its Accessibility Enhancement Accreditation Program, the first global program dedicated to enhancing the accessibility of airports for passengers with disabilities.

Given that around 20 percent of passengers travel with a disability, it is incumbent upon industry to be responsive to the needs of this significant slice of the customer base.

As former Disability Discrimination Commissioner Mr Innes noted after his experience, “I do not want a separate system. (I) want this one to treat us equally.”

That seems like a reasonable request.

Stadler to Supply the New Trams in Alicante and Valencia

Stadler and Ferrocarrils de la Generalitat Valenciana (FGV) have signed a contract for the supply of 16 TRAMLINK trams. The contract provides for a possible extension of up to 12 additional trams, in two batches of six units.

Stadler and FGV have signed a contract for the supply of 16 modern TRAMLINK low floor trams with the possibility of extending the order by a further 12 vehicles, in two batches of six units. The contract value amounts to 84.3 million euros. The lead time for the production of the 16 units has been set at 32 months. The new 4 500 series trams for FGV will be designed and manufactured by the Stadler plant in Albuixech. The units will be incorporated into the fleet of Metrovalencia and TRAM d’Alacant, to cover the needs arising from the expansion projects planned in the coming years.

“We are very proud that FGV, strongly committed to green and sustainable mobility, has chosen our TRAMLINKs for its expansion projects planned in Alicante and Valencia,” said Iñigo Parra, CEO at Stadler Valencia. “The highly innovative tram family set trends in terms of performance, universal accessibility, comfort and safety.”

TRAMLINK is a versatile and accessible light rail vehicle family, customizable to fit any network requirements and mobility demands. The multi-articulated 100% low-floor vehicle features innovative steering bogies with real axles, and very low unsprung masses, which provide a quiet and smooth ride, with low ground vibration and noise emissions and a maximum seating capacity above the bogies, without the need for ramps or steps.

Its barrier-free, bright, pleasant and custom-designed interior ensures safe and comfortable travel. Recently, local operators in Lausanne and Geneva also chose vehicles from the TRAMLINK family to expand and improve the mobility offer in their respective cities.
FGV’s new metre-gauge trams are above 45 m-log and 2.4 m-wide. The company says they will be fully accessible and will have spacious multipurpose areas next to the doors, with places reserved for people with reduced mobility. They will provide greater capacity and fast and efficient passenger transit when boarding and alighting the vehicle.

The TRAMLINKs have been designed in accordance with the latest standards for passive safety, crash safety and pedestrian safety, such as compliance with the CIII scenario of the crash regulations, whereas the normal scenario for trams is the less demanding C-IV scenario. They will also incorporate modern passenger information and video surveillance systems, an efficient air conditioning system and other innovations that optimize the travel experience and thus, contribute to increasing the use of public transport.

Accelerating IT-OT Convergence in Rail to Boost OT Cybersecurity Market

The popular notion might view the rail industry as a laggard compared to auto or high-tech manufacturing when embracing Industry 4.0. Yet railways are increasingly dependent on sophisticated connected systems to enhance efficiency and customer satisfaction. With the advent of connected online systems and the convergence of Operational Technology (OT) and Information Technology (IT) systems, network and data-sharing security between IT and OT systems is proceeding to become an integral component of safety, providing new market opportunities in the rail, freight, and transit sector.  Yet this also increases complexity, inter-connectedness, and cyberattacks if security measures are not taken to secure data flows between the two environments.

ABI Research, a global technology intelligence firm, forecasts that OT and IoT spending in rail between 2022 and 2027 represents an average of 7.65% of total cybersecurity spending in the sector and is set to hit US$300 million globally by 2027.

“This is in line with overall average levels of 3-5% OT cybersecurity spending in the industrial sector. Still, the rail sector’s high level of OT-IT convergence and the extended nature of its networks mean that more precautions should be taken to maintain OT integrity. Exclusively relying on average OT cybersecurity spending growth is not enough to ensure secure networks, especially given the sector’s OT spending was globally a meager US$123 million in 2022,” explains Michael Amiri, Senior Industrial Cybersecurity Analyst at ABI Research. “The disparity indicates higher OT cybersecurity risks in the future if rail operators do not increase OT security budgets.” 

Amiri stresses that, considering geopolitical tensions and hacker operations, rail organizations should actively engage with cybersecurity vendors to find tailored solutions for vulnerabilities in their vast ecosystem rather than wait for relevant solutions to emerge.     

OT and IoT cybersecurity spending could experience a boost through evolving regulatory requirements like the EU’s new NIS 2 Directive or the U.S. Rail Cybersecurity Mitigation Actions and Testing Directive, issued back in October 2022. “Coupled with increasing reliance on third-party systems in the rail supply chain that increases potential breaches through the sector’s expansive network, rail cybersecurity vendors could experience an expanding market environment in upcoming years. This means market forecasts should be viewed conservatively, as the impact of future regulation on spending trends is difficult to factor in. Much will depend on whether new regulation is backed by financial penalties, which go a long way in driving compliance,” Amiri says.

“As infrastructure threats make the headlines more frequently, investment in OT security will see increasing capital flows. These attacks, alongside new regulatory requirements, are hard to incorporate into mathematical models of industry growth, but will lead to spikes in security spending,” he adds.

The secure management of data flows is an integral part of OT security. This means securing data flows between OT and IT environments from cybercriminals is key to securing OT-IT convergence in the sector. Rail operators must manage up to thousands of miles of track and other rail resources. An effective asset management system that requires OT-IT convergence and monitoring train systems at its core is the most efficient method to maintain asset health. Vendors, such as Activu provide visibility software solutions that remove communication and collaboration barriers between IT and OT environments, creating a seamless and ordered view of real-time visual information on both networks. Siemens’ Data Capture Unit builds a secure OT-IT bridge, ensuring that critical networks remain physically isolated. Tenable allows organizations to identify assets and communicate risks while enabling IT and OT teams to work better together. Tenable’s OT solution is fully integrated with leading IT security vendors to create a secure trust ecosystem. Vendors specializing in OT cybersecurity, like Radiflow, offer solutions specifically designed to avoid infiltrating OT systems by detecting abnormal behaviors that indicate breach attempts and changes to various Industrial Control System components.

“The rail industry is a high-value target for malicious actors, both financially and symbolically. The symbolic status of the industry, coupled with the confluence of both IT and OT systems in the sector, provides opportunities for blackmail, state-sponsored attacks, or to bring attention to socio-political causes. This means both state-endorsed criminals and non-state actors have targeted the rail and transit sector in the past and will continue to do so” Amiri concludes.

These findings are from ABI Research’s OT-IT Convergence in the Rail Industry: Securing Data Flows as Key to Security application analysis report. This report is part of the company’s IoT Cybersecurity research service, which includes research, data, and analyst insights. Based on extensive primary interviews, Application Analysis reports present an in-depth analysis of key market trends and factors for a specific technology.

Train Derails in Ohio Causing Large Fire

A large train of about 50 cars derailed in Ohio near the Pennsylvania state line. The train was carrying a freight from Madison, Ill., to Conway, Penn., according to the operator, Norfolk Southern. No information was released about what caused the derailment. Officials in the are issued an evacuation order which remained in place through Saturday morning for people within a mile of the scene. No injuries were reported.

Reports say firefighters from three states (Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia) responded due to the location of the derailment about 50 miles (82 km) northwest of Pittsburgh and about 20 miles (32 km) from West Virginia.

Veridos to Become Majority Shareholder in NetSeT

Veridos has acquired a majority stake in NetSeT Global Solutions. The acquisition of the company, a developer of identity management systems, strengthens Veridos’ position as a full-service provider of integrated identity solutions.

The Serbian company NetSeT is specialized in the development of complex information systems for the management of citizen data and information security. Veridos already took a minority stake in NetSeT in 2017. Now the company has increased its shares and will integrate NetSeT into the Veridos Group.

Veridos and NetSeT have been working together successfully for 20 years. In joint projects, the companies co-operated in providing the ID system for northern Macedonia, ePassport systems for Bangladesh, Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates, and a driver’s license system for Uganda, among several others.

“We warmly welcome NetSeT to our group of companies,” explains Marc-Julian Siewert, CEO of Veridos. “With this acquisition, we are expanding our position as a provider of holistic identity solutions to cover the entire value chain: from citizen registration to the creation and personalization of ID documents and the management of citizen data to document verification.”

Zoran Savic, CEO, co-owner and founder of NetSeT Global Solutions, adds: “Our collaboration with Veridos is a great success story. It has provided NetSeT with access to global markets and the opportunity for sustainable growth. We are very excited to continue this success story as part of the Veridos Group.”

Liberty Defense Announces the Sale of its First HEXWAVE System

Liberty Defense announced it has sold its first HEXWAVE system to LINEV Systems, an established provider of contraband detection security solutions to corrections and other high security markets.

LINEV Systems plans to use the HEXWAVE unit for client demonstrations and act as a reseller for Liberty with a focus on the corrections and education verticals. LINEV Systems, which is part of the global LINEV Group, has been an industry-leading provider of x-ray imaging checkpoint security technology for over 15 years, including AI-driven x-ray security screening, benchtop scientific instruments, and x-ray non-destructive testing (NDT) systems. Over 1,000 LINEV transmission x-ray body scanners are deployed in 24 State Department of Corrections facilities across the US.

“HEXWAVE is an excellent complement to the LINEV Systems product lineup, offering a touchless, non-ionizing, contraband-detection solution suitable for non-inmate screening at corrections facilities. This could include staff, lawyers, and other visitors,” said Bill Frain, CEO of Liberty. “This is a great opportunity to safely provide enhanced security and mitigate any potential threats or other unwanted contraband. This offers us an exciting opportunity to enhance our HEXWAVE AI algorithms to detect corrections industry-specific items of interest.”

HEXWAVE uses millimeter wave, advanced 3D imaging, and AI to detect all types of concealed metallic and non-metallic weapons and other prohibited items. The system allows for rapid, automated screening using a high throughput, contactless, walkthrough portal.

“After spending several years and $40 million on development, the HEXWAVE is ready for commercialization and introduction of its enhanced detection capabilities into multiple verticals in everyday spaces where people gather. We are very proud to have the first sale with LINEV Systems and plan to meet the global demand to provide security in public settings to help protect our communities,” added Frain.

UK Travel Staffing Shortages Set to Peak in Summer 2023, But Industry Identifies Path Forward  

New research released by SAP reveals that the worst is yet to come for the UK’s travel industry as staffing shortages continue to challenge airlines and rail operators.  

In a survey of 401 senior decision makers from within the UK’s airline and rail operators, fifty-five percent of respondents say staffing challenges will impact customers’ 2023 travel plans with thirty-four percent believing it will peak in summer 2023. While, overall, twenty percent see challenges lasting through until Christmas 2023.  

SAP’s research also reveals that in addition to passenger and travel disruption, staffing shortages are having a profound impact on the industry’s senior workforce. Thirty-six percent of those surveyed say the added workload and stress will have a negative impact on their mental health. With the same amount admitting they’re worried they’ll have to take a pay cut if the challenges aren’t resolved. These pressures are also pushing one third (33%) to think about leaving the industry in the next 12 months.  

Leaders Clear on the Source of the Challenges  

In recent months, the travel and transport industry has faced numerous staffing shortages, leading to queues, delays and wide-spread disruption. According to the survey, senior travel executives from within airline and rail agree somewhat or strongly that these issues were largely impacted by an inability to forecast supply and demand to keep up with an unexpected surges in passenger numbers (40%); as well as a lack of collaboration or intelligence sharing between the industry and government (40%). For thirty-eight percent, Brexit is the cause, while for thirty-six percent, slow onboarding processes and excessive employee checks are to blame. Almost a quarter (24%) of those questioned say the industry faces irreparable damage and customer loss because of these issues.  

Scope to Stabilize the Industry 

The good news is that the industry overwhelmingly realizes that it needs to address these shortfalls, with a staggering ninety-six percent of respondents saying their ability to recruit and retain talent needs improvement. SAP’s research finds that both airline and rail leaders know exactly what they need to do to stabilize recruitment and source talent. They list their top three priorities as ensuring an optimized supply chain to ensure a constant availability of resources and equipment (34%), building a greater understanding of why employees leave and how they can retain them (33%); and better processes to speed up onboarding and checks for new hires, particularly for recruiting international talent (32%).   

Many worry sustainability sacrifices will need to be made 

Given the industry disruption over the past few years, it follows that UK travel leaders believe sacrifices will have to be made in order to ensure staffing pressures are relieved. Just a couple of months after COP27, as many as thirty-five percent of respondents state they’ll need to allocate budget away from ESG to address ongoing staffing challenges. This need to refocus budgets is particularly concerning as almost one third (30%) admit they’re not on track to meet their net-zero target; with almost another third (29%) revealing they’re still not taking any immediate action to reduce their environmental footprint.  

“Travel providers have seen some significant challenges over the past few years, and many have as a result amended or fundamentally changed their business and operating models. The pandemic, a strong focus on sustainability and changes in customer behavior underpinned by digital technologies have been accelerating factors in this transformation of the travel sector. There is now tremendous opportunity to reshape the future, especially for those rail and airline leaders who are willing to take definitive actions and utilise technology to make better informed and more predictable decisions,” explains Dominique Kunze, head of Telco, Media and Service Industries at SAP.  

“When we look at the workforce perspective, it’s encouraging to see that many are clear on why they’ve faced staffing struggles, what they can do to ensure the future health and wellbeing of their staff, and ultimately emerge on top. But they do not need to sacrifice ESG efforts in order to do so. There is a raft of cost-effective, flexible and carbon-friendly technology out there to help them accelerate recruitment and relieve workforce planning pressures. This allows travel providers to focus on what they do best – helping people get to where they need to be in the most environmentally friendly and cost-efficient way possible.”