AusRAIL, Market Sectors

ARTC’s bold plan to double capacity of intrastate freight network

Australian Rail Track Corporation’s (ARTC) development of a unique, next-generation signalling system could revolutionise the way freight is moved throughout Australia.

By Jennifer Perry

In what has been described by many in the industry as a “courageous step”, ARTC is effectively creating its own signalling technology, the Advanced Train Management System (ATMS), using the “best of breed” of the various types of signalling and communications capabilities currently in operation and bringing these together in a new, integrated system.

ARTC is creating its own signalling system as at this point in time there is no signalling system in existence that could suit ARTC’s operational needs.

Its intrastate network is vast and remote and signalling systems such as ETCS that are currently implemented across Europe and about to be rolled-out in Australia by Sydney passenger operator RailCorp are more suited to passenger metro networks.

ARTC’s aim in developing the ATMS&nbsp is to be able to get more freight on the same amount of infrastructure in a cost effective way without any compromise to safety.

ARTC chief executive John Fullerton told Rail Express that ATMS would increase capacity of the network by reducing the spacing between trains and therefore allowing more trains to be run on the same track.

“Should the proven ATMS be implemented on ARTC’s main line network, capacity will be substantially increased by enabling more trains to operate on the existing rail infrastructure. This has the potential to more than double the capacity of the network using existing rail corridors,” Fullerton said.

The ATMS would enable the removal of physical “on track” constraints.Currently, ARTC’s intrastate network operates using trackside signals for trains, many of which can be 20km to 50 km apart, with only one train within a signal area at any one time.

The proven ATMS system would replace on track signals and manage trains using a sophisticated computer program and a GPS-based train tracking and control device.&nbspThe device has trackside and GPS transmitters on the front and rear of trains, up to 2km long, which send data about a train’s exact location through the 3G network and satellites.

The system could secure the distance between trains with an added safety margin for braking and protection from trains entering into another train’s space.

The new system is also able to verify and cross verify a train’s position, speed and braking distance and being able to check these parameters against any other trains operating on the network.

ARTC’s current signalling system gives them about 40% occupancy, with ATMS expected to increase this to around 65%.

&nbspARTC is currently trialling a prototype of the ATMS on 105km of the interstate rail network between Crystal Brook and Port Augusta in South Australia as part of a 39-month proof of concept phase.

“The proof of concept trial commenced in June 2008, which gives an idea of the time we are investing in fully adapting the system to the Australian environment,” Fullerton said.

ARTC has already completed about two-thirds of the trial and is currently nearing the end of the final stage.

ARTC will release the first stage findings of the ATMS trial in the coming weeks.