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Smart CCTV for the tubes?

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Transport officials are looking into a so-called Smart-CCTV system that would automatically alert managers of tubes and trains to left packages or odd behaviour.

Trials of this kind of technology have so far proven unsuccessful. Trials of so-called smart CCTV were abandoned at Liverpool Street Station after the system generated too many false positives.

A spokesman for London Underground (LU) said that the improved technology was being tested in New York, and LU was keeping a close eye on the performance of the technology.

The London Underground network is currently watched by some 6,000 CCTV cameras, and authorities plan to double that figure over the next five years.

Arguably, 12,000 cameras running for most of each day will generate more footage than can practicably be monitored by London Underground staff. A quick visit to almost any tube station will illustrate this point. You'll find a booth filled with screens showing the CCTV camera output, which may or may not be being watched by LU staff.

Finding a way to automate the monitoring of the cameras will then be very important to LU managers, unless they want to double the number of monitoring staff along with the camera installations.

Speaking at a conference in London yesterday, transport secretary Alistair Darling also said that millimetre wave scanners would be introduced on to Paddington's platforms for the Heathrow Express in 2006, to test the scanners' usefulness in detecting weapons or explosives.

The same kit could later be used on the tube network, according to the LU spokesman, but Darling ruled out full airport-style security at the UK's rail stations. ®

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