Northern Trains Ltd is vital in connecting tens of thousands of commuters to work, education, leisure and more every day. To protect their staff, they are trialling WCCTV body worn cameras across their network.
Northern's frontline staff are at risk daily of both verbal and physical assault and often must manage difficult members of the public, anti-social behaviour and intoxicated people alone.
Protecting their staff is a big concern for Northern Trains Ltd, but coordinating safety can be problematic with more than 1,500 conductors spread across 21 locations between Buxton, Sheffield and Carlisle.
When looking to add body cameras to their safety toolkit, Northern quickly realised they faced additional challenges around the lack of suitable Wi-Fi, network access or power at their 21 locations.
Also, some locations have limited storage space and are shared with other operators' staff, leading to security and GDPR concerns around the equipment.
These challenges, coupled with an outdated IT infrastructure, no network capacity to add additional projects onto any of the existing servers, and the complex geography of the business, meant that Northern had to find a solution which wasn't available 'off the shelf'.
A previous body camera trial in the rail industry, looking at assault reduction on frontline staff, found staff wearing body-worn cameras were 47% less likely to be verbally and physically assaulted. Also, if a forward-facing screen was present, the results were greater as this tended to de-escalate an incident as both parties were aware of the camera's presence and what was being recorded.
In January 2020, Northern met with WCCTV to find a solution to their complex needs. Northern had funding to procure a solution for their frontline teams and wanted to start a trial to see if the same reduction levels could be achieved onboard their train services.
WCCTV worked closely with Northern to re-engineer the Smart Hub technology to incorporate a wireless data connection that negated access and connection issues at the 21 depots.
Two hundred forty body worn cameras were procured to be split across the four business regions, and the assignment was based on the size of the depot vs the number of incidents occurring. Six contingency units were available to be transferred to the affected depots to deal with any spikes in anti-social behaviour.
Given the complex nature of the business and the industry, Northern had to consult with Trade Union representatives, Employee Councils, and discussions at a national level through Rail Delivery Group steering groups. This also meant that wearing body-worn cameras as part of the trial would be voluntary.
Northern had 680 volunteers sign up for the trial, and all 21 depots went live with the equipment.
Since 1st April 2021, the WCCTV body worn cameras have recorded 77 offences, and the evidential footage was shared with the British Transport Police and Debt Recovery Prosecution Department.
Northern asked staff involved in the trial to provide feedback on the use of body worn cameras, and 69% provided feedback supporting the scheme. They also provided anecdotal evidence that the body worn cameras' presence had deterred incidents, including customer-on-customer conflict, drunken behaviour, fare evasion and customer service escalation.
The WCCTV body worn camera trial is scheduled to end at the beginning of March 2022. A business review will take place to discuss extending the trial or fully deploying WCCTV body worn cameras. With the trial's success so far, Northern is also examining the availability of solutions to support their revenue inspection teams and station-graded staff.
"WCCTV has been helpful with our Conductor body worn project, especially with the challenges that have risen through the COVID-19 pandemic, which has led us to purchase more cameras from them to aid our staff on our Gatelines and Station staff."
Northern Trains Ltd
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