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Evaluation of Rail Trespass Detection System


According to the Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Safety Analysis, approximately 70 percent of all railroad-related deaths in the United States, are the result of trespassing and suicide (FRA, 2017). In the European Union (EU), the comparable number is 89 percent (ERA, 2016). At present, there is extensive knowledge concerning how to detect intruders in terms of general security sensitive installations, such as utility plants, banks, etc. However, little knowledge has been gained in learning how to detect intruders specific to rail operations. In addition, there is little systematic information available to railroads on the extent of the trespassing problem and the actions of trespassers.


Describe and estimate costs and effectiveness of different trespass detection technologies. These technologies can have any, or all, of the following characteristics:

  • technologies that detect trespass and provide an instantaneous warning to the trespasser,

  • technologies that detect trespass and provide real-time information to the railroad and/or law enforcement to determine a response, and

  • technologies that detect and record trespass activities to provide information to inform future engineering, education or enforcement action.

The research should evaluate both the physical hardware for detecting and recording trespass, and software and/or machine learning that can analyze data collected and provide information for responders and decision makers.

Research should consider both traditional detection systems (fixed cameras, motion detectors), use of emerging technologies (such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones), forward-facing cameras on locomotives, Strava fitness mapping data.), and innovative new technologies.

The systems might be simple detection systems, but they may also provide more detailed information to inform policy and short and medium -run responses. This information may include, but is not limited to, time and location of trespass, characterizing the demographics of the trespasser, and the actions and conduct of the trespasser while on railroad property.


This research can avoid rail related fatalities by either:

  • identifying effective means to detect and warning people they are in a dangerous location and in immediate harm, or

  • provide information on the extent, location and nature of trespass to inform decision makers on engineering, education and/or enforcement actions that might be undertaken, and ultimately to provide information to evaluate any initiatives.

Related Research:

There is a limited amount of existing research available examining systems to detect people trespassing on rail rights-of-way. However, there is extensive literature and existing research available about detecting trespassers and intruders in other applications, such as defense, public utilities, etc. Many industries operate facilities that need to be protected from intrusion so there is an entire industry devoted to intruder detection. Finding and evaluating existing commercial off the shelf security technology and deploying same to rail right-of-way applications is the principal objective.

Catalano, A., Bruno, F. A., Pisco, M., Cutolo, A., & Cusano, A. (2014). An intrusion detection system for the protection of railway assets using Fiber Bragg Grating sensors. Sensors (Basel, Switzerland), 14(10), 18268–85.

Federal Railroad Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, DC. (2012). Railroad Infrastructure Trespassing Detection Systems Research in Pittsford , New York, (November).

Havârneanu, G. M., Burkhardt, J.-M. M., & Paran, F. F. (2015). A systematic review of the literature on safety measures to prevent railway suicides and trespassing accidents. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 81, 30–50.

Mishara, B. L., & Bardon, C. (2016). Systematic review of research on railway and urban transit system suicides. Journal of Affective Disorders, 193, 215–226.

RESTRAIL (REduction of Suicides and Trespasses on RAILway property), International Union of Railways, Paris, France, RESTRAIL Toolbox, http://restrail.eu/toolbox/, 2018.


The researcher should provide for each of the technologies:

  • Basic engineering description of the necessary hardware,

  • Indication of whether the hardware is currently available, is in development, or is prospective

  • Indication of whether the system provides an automated warning to the trespasser, provides real time information to a monitoring center, or provides delayed information to inform future decisions.

  • Discussion of any real-time monitoring costs, and discussion of dispatching of responders.

  • Discussion of current or prospective software necessary to interpret and collate data collected and to make it available in a practical way to assist decision makers.

  • Consideration of the types of information and reports that would be useful for decision makers.

  • Discussion of costs of hardware, software, maintenance and staffing.


Some of the proposed systems may be ready for immediate trial using off-the-shelf technology. The proposer should show that there would be clear benefits relative to costs for railroads. Implementation may also require a joint and cooperative action between railroads or transit agencies with local municipalities and local police departments.

Other systems may be in the development stages, and the researchers can map out a process by which rail stakeholders can be involved in the development of these technologies for future potential use.

Sponsoring Committee:AR080, Highway/Rail Grade Crossings
Research Period:12 - 24 months
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Ian Savage, Jeff Warner, Steve Laffey, Greg Orrell
Date Posted:09/28/2018
Date Modified:10/09/2018
Index Terms:Grade crossing protection systems, Railroad grade crossings, Trespassers, Railroad safety, Suicide,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Safety and Human Factors
Security and Emergencies

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