Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - traffic, infrastructure - track, economics - appraisal/evaluation, mode - rail


Video cameras, Traffic surveillance, Traffic monitoring, Railroad grade crossings, Obstructions (Navigation), Obstacles (Navigation), Microwave detectors, Level crossings, Laboratory tests, Intrusion detection, Highway railroad grade crossings, Highway rail intersections, High speed track, Grade crossings, Detection and identification systems, Camcorders


The rail industry is in the process of developing a prototype system for high-speed rail. One of the concerns associated with high-speed rail is the danger posed by obstructions on the track. This level of danger is much higher than with traditional railway vehicles because the high-speed passenger equipment is both lighter and faster moving than traditional equipment. Therefore, it is more vulnerable to serious damage and derailment by objects on the track. Two existing traffic monitoring technologies were considered to have potential for railway intrusion detection: video systems and microwave systems. Qualitative laboratory tests were conducted on each system to evaluate the ability to detect objects as a function of size, material, color, and entry direction. Quantitative tests were conducted to define the capability of each type of system to detect objects as a function of object size. Test results indicate that both systems have good potential for use in railroad intrusion detection. The video system was tested in indirect natural light, medium-intensity artificial lighting, and low-level artificial lighting. Object detection was independent of color, composition, and direction of entry but was a direct function of detection zone size. Spheres as small as 4 in. in diameter were detected consistently. The microwave system would consistently detect 4-in. spheres, and results were independent of material, color, entry direction, and zone size. It was concluded that existing video- and microwave-based traffic monitoring systems have potential for use in a railroad intrusion detection application and that field tests should be pursued.