What is Sentinel?
Sentinel is the rail industry’s Authority to Work system that enables you to work safely on the infrastructure. Sentinel is owned and run by Network Rail, for the industry, and is supported by the Sentinel Scheme Rules. The Sentinel Scheme Rules apply to everyone who uses Sentinel, and outline responsibilities, policies and breaches that must be adhered to. You can find a copy here.
To make Sentinel smart, safe and simple we use the very latest smartcard technology, a secure and trusted database, and multiple devices. This allows workers’ competence and fitness to work to be verified simply and effectively in near real time. There are currently over 100,000 users on the system across the industry, and over 1,700 Sponsor companies signed up to the scheme.
Since 1999, Sentinel has been the chosen identity card scheme for making sure that people who work on or near Network Rail’s infrastructure have basic competence and are medically fit to do so. The system, owned and developed by Network Rail, is based on a central database and a common system for checking that people hold a core competence, a medical certificate and a drugs & alcohol certificate. Originally a paper-based approach was taken and the system – though better – was not perfect. Re-printing of cards was necessary if something changed and there was no capability to easily verify or authenticate the information being presented.
2013 saw a significant upgrade to the Sentinel system, making use of electronic chip technology within newly formatted cards. This allows near real time checking of competence using a variety of authentication methods such as smartphones, PC access or simple scanning of a QR code on the cards. It is now possible to check the card against the central database in near real time using internet connectivity. In 2014, Transport for London became the first other Rail Entity to adopt the system.
With further enhancement projects in 2016, the Sentinel system is now being used to control site access and improve the management of fatigue risk.
Since 2016 updates have been made to the system, with user experience at the forefront. In 2021 Network Rail (High Speed) became the second Rail Entity to onboard on to the system enabling them to validate Authority to Work on their infrastructure