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New Sentinel smart cards for railway contractors

17 Dec 13 A new card scheme authorising holders to work trackside on the railways comes into full force in the new year.

Network Rail staff
Network Rail staff

The old-style cards will no longer be valid.

According to Network Rail, which keeps records of who is competent to work trackside, there are 67,000 card holders across the supply chain.

By January 6, new Sentinel smart cards will have completely replaced the previous cards, which will no longer be accepted. Network Rail says that these smart cards offer ‘a step-change in safety’, as they allow for records to be instantly updated and for closer monitoring of staff hours on duty.

Previous Sentinel cards carried all competencies and other details printed on them, and therefore needed to be sent away for reprinting when circumstances changed. The new smart cards use an RFID chip (radio frequency identification) which can be read by card readers hooked up to a PC. They also have QR (quick response) code on the face, which can be read by smart phone. The data read by the phone is then sent to the Sentinel data base, which responds with the details of the person whose data is held on the card.

It also means data can be updated instantly.

Network Rail safety and sustainable development director Gareth Llewellyn said: “I cannot emphasise enough how important safety is to us and how committed we are to looking after the people who work with us. Sentinel smart cards are vital to improving our ability to do that, and they also offer a means of improving the efficiency of our operation on the ground. Being able to ensure people have the correct competences for the task will make us safer and more efficient.

“This is a hugely positive development for us and helps us continue to bring everyone home safe, every day.”

Mr Llewellyn added: “Our supply chain has really embraced the new card and in fact become an advocate of them. We are all working together to complete the roll-out across the country.”

The new Sentinel card works as a smart ID card; the details of competencies, hours worked and other information is stored on the central database. The cards can be interrogated via smart phone or PC with card reader, but there are also web and hotline options for those without access to technology.

The rollout of the new card to Network Rail staff began in the summer and then the supply chain followed on from September.

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