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Access control systems deployed on two bridges connecting England and South Wales

Severn Bridge connects
England and South Wales

An access control solution from Access Control Technology (ACT) is being used on the main crossing points between England and South Wales. 

The two bridge crossings are the (suspension) Severn Bridge and the (cable-stayed) Second Severn Crossing which span the estuary between South Gloucestershire and Monmouthshire. 

The client, Severn River Crossing PLC, needed to be able to create 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 and even time of day. 

There is a total of four maintenance buildings at the two bridges (which are 15 miles apart) and a toll plaza at each. Management make clear distinctions between staff employed on maintenance and those on the toll plazas, with the different job profiles being reflected in the access rights encoded into the ACT cards. Emergency managers have 24-hour access to all buildings. 

Severn River Crossing opted for versatile smart card technology by using ACTpro DESFire EV1 1040 proximity reader. This is a panel-mounted unit which will read serial numbers from any MIFARE card and can produce “Clock & Data” or “Weigand” output. It can be used both indoors and outdoors. 

Between 200 and 300 users are currently registered on the Severn River Crossing system and the flexibility of the ACTWinPro control software is allowing managers to set up short-term access rights for contractors and segregate access privileges according to role. 

Staff members are also able to use the software to perform a time and attendance function. A lost card is easily removed from the database and a replacement issued promptly. 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 authorized people before access is given. 

ACT 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 behavior (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, a 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.” 

The Severn Bridge was opened in 1966 to replace the ferry crossing from Aust near Bristol to Beachley, and so provides a direct link for the M4 motorway into Wales. The bridge now carries approximately 600,000 vehicles per 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 approximately 1.8 million vehicles per 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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