A full range of mobility solutions from Siemens was on display at AusRAIL PLUS, with the centre of attention being a control simulator rigged up to demonstrate how an automated ATO-over-ETCS worked.
The ETCS (European Train Control System) relays continuous information between the train and a central rail management centre via radio system, trackside technology and on-board equipment. It’s already in use across the central Queensland coal network and will be brought in for Cross River Rail operations.
On hand to explain the technology, company solutions engineer Craig Cameron said the company was esssentially demonstrating the future of ETCS with the introduction of ATO (automatic train operation).
“Whilst ATO and ETCS are not new systems, the recent release of the ETCS Baseline 4.0 means that ATO Baseline 1.0 functionality is now a formal part of the ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) standard. This has been coined as ATO-over-ETCS with the goal of integrating the two individual systems,” he said.
“The ETCS system provides the safety aspect and the ATO system is purely doing the acceleration, braking and the control of the doors, for example.
“We’re showing here the use of the system, how the driver would first alight the train, get it active, do the data entry to get the train to a certain state such that the ETCS can then start supervision, and then the ATO can take over the driving.
“With ATO, trains consistently arrive at the location at the expected time and operates in a consistent behavior because once you’ve eliminated some of the human factors from the driving behavior, you’re now able to reduce the lead time between trains and improve your headways. And that’s really the goal.
“Our goal with the demonstration is to raise awareness of the new release to the various user groups within the ASEAN Pacific cluster.
“This includes the engagement with users at the passenger level all the way up to senior management. For the passengers we are discussing the high level functions/goals of ETCS and ATO, and how ATO will help reduce the time between trains.
“With train drivers and train managers, we discussed how their roles will change over time and their overall involvement with the train as ATO gets introduced and advances through the stages of automation.
“When talking with the signalling engineers and designers, we talked about how this impacts the equipment trackside, including the need for signals, track circuit/axel counters, and location cases.
“Once we get into the system integration engineers, project managers, and safety assurance engineers, we start covering the topics of integration, safety, implementation times, and the project life cycle.
“We also had many discussions with various suppliers on how they fit into the chain and how their products help Siemens and other ETCS/ATO providers achieve an integrated system which provides benefits to both passengers and operators.”
Cameron said one of the things he most enjoyed while demonstrating the simulator was engaging with the younger generation to help get them interested into engineering and into railways.
“There were a number of high school and university students that stopped by our stand to see that system and they were often surprised that the driverless concept was not just something in the automotive industry, but also in the railways,” he said.
Cameron said there were a number of tenders and projects currently in motion using such technology.
“Queensland Rail is currently looking at deploying ATO-over-ETCS for Cross River Rail, Sydney Metro is using ATO with Communications-based Train Control (CBTC), and Perth is also looking at that. Auckland and Wellington are looking at moving to ETCS level 2 with plans to move to ATO in the future,” he said.
“So it’s becoming the kind of the end goal for most of our customers nowadays to have that level of automation to let them achieve a more reliable driving experience and a more reliable passenger experience.”
In the adjoining station at the stand, Siemens’ Senior Expert Railway Operations and Technology, Daniel Achermann, was busy shedding light on the traffic management system (TMS) that the company will be delivering to Transport for NSW’s digital systems program.
“The system is an element in the vertical integration of data into the railway timetables,” he said.
“Currently these are often printed out on a paper train graph, and then the person working with that is trying to establish the current situation from looking at the positions of the trains … and deriving actions from what he learns from that process.
“This is done often through telephone, advising signallers and other staff what to do next with the traffic management system.
“With the digitalised TMS, this procedure is basically automated. So the comparison between where the trains are and where there should be, are being captured and shown in a dynamic train graph, and actions in that train graph are automatically consumed by the signaling system. So whatever you plan is ultimately going to happen on the rails.”
The system is already in operation in European countries such as Belgium, Switzerland and Austria, and due for implementation by Transport for NSW for its city trains within the next couple of years.
Meanwhile, Siemens MaaS (Mobility as a Service) Regional Business Manager Silas Wong demonstrated the company’s software portfolio focussing mainly on timetabling systems for mainline rail, as well as the MaaS service, which combines all transport modes together to allow passengers to plan their journeys and book and pay for them in one single application.
“The train planning software (TPS) solution allows the railway operator to manage the entire life cycle of the timetable, from strategic planning five years in advance, all the way to on-the-day dispatch,” he said.
“It looks at how your timetable changes based on disruptions and other events and then export all information to passengers so they can better plan their trips on their apps, or look at the train passenger information system to see when the next train is coming.
“Traditionally for train planning systems or timetabling systems, a lot of things are done manually.
“So for example, with timetable changes, a person has to manually mark it down. And when it comes to changes, it becomes a very troublesome. So we want something that’s automated, easy to adjust and to do planning with.
“That’s where the software comes into play: less paperwork and a more efficient process.”
Wong said MaaS was a more downstream solution, targeted at the passengers rather than the operators.
“The timetables are ingested into these apps to enable the journey planning, bookings and payments,” he said.