Advanced train control can double interstate track capacity: ARTC

<p>Rail freight capacity on interstate routes such as Melbourne-Perth could double under a new signalling technology presently being examined by the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC).</p> <p>The ARTC has contracted Lockheed Martin to help develop its $20.3m blueprint for an advanced train management system (ATMS) based on technology that is already being trialled in the US on the Chicago-St Louis route.</p> <p>It will include in-cabin signalling, wireless control of trains and points, and an on-train satellite-based location and detection system accurate to three metres.</p> <p>The technology would be based on Telstra’s code division multiple access system (CDMA), the ARTC said.</p> <p>The technology will eliminate the need for trackside signalling equipment needed under conventional systems and will enable a train to travel in a virtual zone with accurate information on its own position and that of other nearby trains. </p> <p>The system will also slow or stop trains automatically should a driver not heed the in-cabin warning systems.</p> <p>ARTC chief executive David Marchant said the technology could unlock a lot more capacity on the interstate routes it controls and would be cheaper than the option of overhauling conventional signalling systems &#8211 a measure which could cost as much as $500m-$600m.</p> <p>"I will try not to get too excited, but it is the biggest thing to happen in rail this century," Mr Marchant said.</p> <p>Under conventional signalling, only 40% of the rail track could effectively be utilised because only one train could occupy the zone between two signals, he said.</p> <p>"It’s been a system where capacity has been defined by signals," Mr Marchant said.</p> <p>ATMS will enable trains to travel closer together, each aware of other train positions and the speed at which they are travelling.</p> <p>"You can make an old dinosaur dance," Mr Marchant said.</p> <p>Such a system could double rail track capacity on interstate freight routes against existing signalling equipment. </p> <p>The ARTC has begun a year-long study, to be completed in March 2006, that will examine the costs and possibilities for using such a technology before any decision is made on whether to go ahead.</p> <p>The system for the blueprint was chosen over other emerging train control&#47signalling technologies such as European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), which has had a chequered history of development in countries including the UK. </p> <p>Mr Marchant said the ATMS would be capable of linking in with other technologies that may be applied to the rail industry.</p> <p>"We define open interface, open architecture," Mr Marchant said.</p> <p>"These system are based on open architecture all our contracts are based on open architecture because we know it’s [technology&#93 going to change." </p> <br />