A joint collaboration between British Transport Police (BTP) and Network Rail has resulted in the successful implementation of the UK’s Airwave TETRA two-way radio service into two service helicopters.
The trial, which commenced 12 months ago, involved the installation of the radio equipment (cradle and handsets on loan from BTP) in the Network Rail helicopters assigned with the task of conducting track surveys and special operations.
Stuart Bines, HQ Communications, BTP, said: “Prior to the installation of the Airwave Service, the helicopters would communicate with their control room using a satellite phone. However, the coverage was often sketchy and did not integrate with our control rooms. In practice this would mean that for a mutual aid operation, their control room would have to call us, which could delay the response time.”
With both organisations ramping up their activities to tackle cable theft across the country, it became apparent that access to the secure and resilient network used by the emergency services was essential to help with more direct communications.
In conjunction with the installation of the radio equipment in the helicopters, a fixed desktop has been installed at Network Rail’s National Operations Centre to facilitate integrated communications between the aircraft and BTP.
“The helicopter users have access to our sharers’ hailing talk group, which facilitates direct communication with our control room. Our operators can then immediately deploy the necessary officers in response to the information received,” added Bines.
Users also have access to the BTP air-to-ground talk group and the BTP interoperability talk group to facilitate communication with units on the ground if they are at the scene of a major incident, or if they are on pre-planned operations.
All BTP-trained air observers have been issued with separate handsets to connect to the Airwave Network for pre-planned operations when they accompany Network Rail in the helicopters.