Depot Personnel Protection System

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A Depot Personnel Protection System, commonly referred to as Depot Protection System or DPS, is a system designed to protect staff and equipment by ensuring the safe and controlled movement of rail vehicles into and out of train maintenance depot, a process sometimes known as shunting. This allows train maintenance operations to be conducted without endangering the safety of staff, and damaging other maintenance equipment in the depot.

The most important asset in the depot are the people working there, therefore the depot protection system needs to deliver the highest level of personnel security.

Depot protection system components[edit]

A depot protection system consists of these basic elements:

  • the signaling system that gives the train driver permission to either enter or exit the maintenance building,
  • a method of warning staff when trains are moving or about to start moving
  • some method of physical protection is highly desirable and this may include a derailer or wheel stop. These, when raised, would intentionally derail any unauthorised train attempting to enter the depot, thereby protecting staff and equipment in the depot.
  • signal control panel which provides some form of control for an operator to accept a train into the depot, or to release a train from the depot.

Traditional method for personnel protection[edit]

Traditionally protection to a personnel working in the depot was provided using padlocks. Staff would fit these padlocks onto the signal control panel before starting work.[1] With the padlocks in place, it would not be possible to physically access the control panel to set the driver signal to proceed or lower the physical protection.

Unfortunately although widely installed these simple padlock systems do have some draw backs. Padlocks often had to be destroyed when staff forgot to remove them at the end of the working period, in which case they would have to be cut off (though this can be resolved by using a system of padlocks incorporating a master key, to which the supervisor has access). It is also a slow procedural system with poor traceability in the event of an incident. This led to the development of more advanced electronic systems that overcame these weaknesses.

Advanced personnel protection system[edit]

Operator panel user interface

More technically advanced depot protection systems consist of a number of microprocessor-based control panels installed in a distributed communication network, operating using electronic identification keys or tokens, in place of padlocks. Each user is issued with a personal datakey, a portable memory device which stores the user's login details and operational level electronically. Before starting work, the user logs into the system at the nearest control panel to "apply personal protection" to themselves while they are working in the depot. Once a user is logged into the system, the DPS will inhibit removal of train movement protection and clearing of driver signals, therefore preventing a shunter/team leader to authorise a train movement, until all users have logged out of the system.

This system can reduce some of the 'walk time' associated with traditional systems (staff can log on at any such control panel, rather than having to walk to one designated location to apply their personal padlock) but conversely, the ability to log on remotely from the work site does give rise to the opportunity of staff logging on to the wrong work site (e.g. the wrong road in the maintenance shed).

Advanced depot protection systems can provide performance monitoring software via the integration with data acquisition and monitoring systems. This allows maintenance supervisors to remotely monitor for instance the status of the road, who is working in each road, and the status of other interlocked maintenance equipment, enabling them to plan maintenance tasks and train movement operation more effectively. This can help identify operational efficiency savings and provide traceability in the event of an incident.

Modern protection systems installed at today’s depots may consist of the following equipment:

Operator control panel[edit]

DPS Operator control panel

The operator control panel is installed inside the entrance door of each road. These panels control movements into and out of the depot. Staff access the system using a data key that stores their personal details and replaces the traditional personal padlock in older safety systems.

Shunt signals[edit]

Shunt signals and derailer protecting a depot

Shunt signals are located at the entrance and exit of the workshop to indicate to the driver whether it is safe to proceed. Inbound signals are mounted on low level galvanised stands, whilst outbound signals are placed at cab height on galvanised stands or standoff brackets.


Derailer in a raised position

Derailers are electrically powered. They have traditionally been regarded as the ultimate safeguard in preventing vehicle access and are fitted to tracks approaching the depot. However, derailers do have drawbacks - they can result in significant damage to infrastructure and Traction and Rolling Stock in the event of a derailment (which can be costly and extremely disruptive to operations) and in some cases, can be innefective or restrictive (they cannot be fitted in close vicinity to check rails, for example).

Treadle/Track switches[edit]

Treadle/Track switches are fitted to the tracks approaching the depot to warn operatives of a vehicle’s approach. They are triggered by the passing wheel and can be used to indicate that a vehicle is waiting.

Audio visual warnings[edit]

Audio visual warnings are beacon signal lamps and klaxons which are installed above each track within the depot and within the pit and are used to display the status of the protection system.


An alternative to using derailers is to equip the system with TPWS. This equipment safeguards staff from unauthorised movements by using the automatic safety equipment fitted to the driving cabs of all main-line registered traction and rolling stock in the UK. Any unplanned movement will cause the train to automatically come to a stand when it has passed the relevant signal set at 'danger'. This has the added benefit of preventing damage to the infrastructure and traction and rolling stock that a derailer system causes. The first known installation of such an equipped system is at Ilford Depot.[2] Note: TPWS equipped depot protection systems would only be suitable for locations where vehicles are driven in and out of the maintenance building by a leading driving cab - they would not be suitable for use at a maintenance building that undertakes largely loose coaching stock or wagon maintenance, where vehicle movements are undertaken by a propelling shunting loco (in this case the lead vehicles would not be equipped with the relevant TPWS safety equipment).

Remote access terminals[edit]

Remote login/logout panels can be installed at any locations to provide convenient access points for staff to logon to the depot protection system to apply for protection prior to work, or to log out of the system, thereby removing their protection from train movement, after they have finished work.

Monitoring and logging facilities[edit]

DPS remote monitoring

The status of all DPS subsystems, such as derailer status, road status, logon users and interlock equipment can be viewed or queries in the control room via a graphical monitoring station. This facilitates operational planning and decision making. The ability of the system to record all DPS related activities, such as login, logout, movement operation, provides full traceability for future safety audits and incidents investigations.


As train operators face ever more challenges to maximise availability and profitability, train maintenance facilities need to handle complex train maintenance operations with increase efficiently and reduced turn-around time, whilst achieving these with increased levels of safety compared with earlier generations.[3] Depot protection system plays an important role in enhancing the safety of staff working in train maintenance facilities and the efficiency of maintenance operation by providing a safe, reliable and efficient way to protect staff, and a safe controlled procedure for moving train into and out of the maintenance facility.


  1. ^ GE/RT8000-T10, Protecting personnel when working on rail vehicles and in sidings.
  2. ^
  3. ^ ERRAC, Strategic Rail Research Agenda 2020.

External links[edit]