Access Control

Access at bridges

by Mark Rowe

At the main bridge crossings between England and South Wales, the (suspension) Severn Bridge and the (cable-stayed) Second Severn Crossing, access control from Access Control Technology (ACT) is in use.

The client, Severn River Crossing PLC, sought a hierarchical access control system in which a user’s rights to enter specific areas of the two bridges could be based on seniority, job profile, date, even time of day. The two bridges (15 miles apart) have four maintenance buildings and a toll plaza at each. Management make clear distinctions between staff employed on maintenance and those on the toll plazas, with the job profiles reflected in the access rights encoded into the cards. Emergency managers have 24-hour access to all buildings.

Severn River Crossing opted for smart-cards by using ACTpro DESFire EV1 1040 proximity reader. This is a panel-mount unit which will read serial numbers from any MIFARE card and can produce ‘Clock and Data’ or ‘Weigand’ output. It can be used indoors and out.

Between 200 and 300 users are registered on the Severn River Crossing system. The ACTWinPro control software lets managers set up short-term access rights for contractors and segregate access privileges according to role. Staff can also use the software to do time and attendance. A lost card is removed from the database and a replacement issued. In crucial areas of the two sites, staff may be required to identify themselves through a pin code as well as at the proximity reader or even be identified by two authorised people before access is given.

ACT says that its products are IP-addressable and the client has integrated the access control devices into its IP network which communicates across the two bridges. There is also integration with the bridge CCTV systems so that atypical behaviour (such as a user failing to identify themselves after three attempts) can activate CCTV recording.

The bridges are using various door controllers including the ACTpro 4000. This is a two-door controller that can extend to a total of 16 doors via ACTpro door stations. In turn up to 250 ACTpro 4000s may be networked via a PC interface to facilitate up to 4,000 doors. The ACTpro 4000 can support 60,000 users. It offers 256 time zones and Disability Discrimination Act-compliant timer facilities as well as times anti-passback and flash-upgradeable firmware.

Alan Jones, Systems Engineer at Severn River Crossing PLC, said: “The ACT system has reduced the number of conventional keys carried by staff and gives us prompt access to vital areas. The control software has improved general auditing abilities, facilitated compliance with certain Payment Card Industry standards and is proving particularly valuable for fire mustering since musters are produced automatically to several printers across the sites.”

About the bridges

The Severn Bridge was opened in 1966 to replace the ferry crossing from Aust near Bristol to Beachley and so provide a direct link for the M4 motorway into Wales. The bridge now carries 600,000 vehicles a month in both directions and has Grade I listed status.

The Second Severn Crossing (which carries the present-day M4) was constructed in the 1990s to improve traffic flows and reduce rush-hour and summer holiday congestion. It carries 1.8m vehicles a month, has three lanes and a hard shoulder in each direction. The bridge portals are close to Sudbrook on the Welsh side and Severn Beach in south Gloucestershire.

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