There’s still not been a decision announced on Sydney Trains’ upgrade of its 10,000-camera CCTV system to high definition IP but it’s coming soon. The tender closed on March 14, 2014 – around 15 months ago – and there are rumours swirling around a pending announcement.   

NOT surprisingly, there’s a lot of interest in the Sydney Trains' contract, which is likely to be worth more than $A20 million and will comprise up to 10,000 HD cameras, with local switch support, servers and video management solutions at multiple stations. The labour component alone is considerable, with some larger stations incorporating CCTV solutions of more than 100 cameras.

Geographically, the system has components on the Far North Coast, the Mid North Coast, New England, the Central Coast, the Hunter Valley, Cumberland/Prospect, Nepean, Northern Sydney, the Inner West, South East Sydney, South West Sydney, the Central West, Orana/Far West, the Riverina/Murray, Illawarra, and the Southern Highlands.

The contract is part of $A40 million pledged by the State Government on a Park and Travel Safety Program that was to be spent primarily on upgrading Sydney Trains’ CCTV system and improving lighting at stations and station car parks. Although the lighting component is a separate contract and is now underway, most of the money assigned to CCTV remains unspent due to a series of delays that were probably unavoidable. 

Historically, this complex solution has always had a fraught tender process and this one has been no different. The original contract was valued at around $A40m but given Sydney Trains' requirements for blanket HD video and additional detection technologies, including completely re-cabling for PoE, this blew out to more than $A100m before the original contract was withdrawn and re-released in a more limited form rumoured to be worth about $A20 million. 

Cabling is a key component of this huge system. In order to avoid massive labour and cable costs it’s possible the chosen solution might wind up using the existing coaxial cable runs supported by new digital converters to handle cameras locally, with Sydney Trains' fibre network handling any long haul work. In a bid to keep prices down, it’s also thought that Sydney Trains stipulated keeping as many still functional rack encoders and video recorders as they could. None of this should be seen as unusual – most surveillance solutions happily incorporate hybrid architectures and certainly most the large government systems we’ve seen in recent times retain significant legacy hardware. 


Sydney Trains' CCTV system includes Sydney's Light Rail

The size and complexity of this solution, which will incorporate significant remote storage capacity spread over thousands of kilometres, means there are multiple stakeholders on the hardware, software and integration side who have a lot invested in a positive outcome. 

The latest murmurs in the industry about this vast contract are conflicting. Some say the contract has been won and it’s simply a matter of the successful integrator agreeing on the price. Others say the system’s management solution has been selected but Sydney Trains needs to go back to tender to attract an appropriate group of security integrators capable of handling the job state-wide. There's talk that the process has come down to 2 integrators with an announcement soon. Still others say the hardware decisions have all been locked away, but the integration is completely up in the air. And there’s another rumour the entire system will be put back out to tender because of changes to hardware pricing and camera technology during the long tender process. Trying to get a handle on which of these rumours is more or less true is a tough business. 

Speaking broadly, the upgrade is a comprehensive expansion that will put HD video in trains, buses, light rail, and ferries. There’s no doubt that in many applications – particularly those with good light – there will be significant improvements in Sydney Trains’ ability to offer face recognition to investigators. Depending on the cameras chosen, low light capability could be very good, though if price is too big a factor in the decision, or the cameras agreed upon represent 2-year-old technology, there might be a need to additionally support the system with more lighting. 


Sydney Ferries are included in the contract…

Speaking about the current CCTV system, Sydney Trains’ chief executive Howard Collins said last year that the CCTV solution helps to observe incidents across train lines and “catch criminals in the act”.

“So far the PTC has conducted 470 operations, handed out more than 76,000 infringements, laid more than 3,900 arrests and 7400 charges since starting on the network in May 2012,” Collins said.

Historically, the then RailCorp selected ADT’s Integrated Systems division to undertake $A25 million of security works on the CityRail network between 2005 and 2010. ADT Security still maintains the CCTV solution for Sydney Trains.♦

By John Adams

Flash: Since publication of this story there's been input insisting the costs quoted are too high. However, no one is prepared to put a dollar figure on the project.

Sydney Trains Awards $A70 Million 11,400-Camera CCTV Contract to Spanish multinational, Indra