Exploring the possibilities of 5G for future railway communications

While some have been aware of FRMCS as the next standard for rail communications, with standards expected to be finalised circa 2022 to 2023 and proof of concepts and trials running from 2020 to 2025, and it is expected that we will see early deployments in Europe from 2025 onwards, the possibilities of how this communications platform and 5G can reshape the railways is now beginning to be understood. Read more

Industry involvement sought for ETCS and ATMS interoperability solution

Transport for NSW is seeking industry involvement on the design of an integration solution for next generation signalling systems.

With Sydney Trains in the process of rolling out European Train Control System (ETCS) Level 2 signalling as part of the Digital Systems program on sections of the T4 Eastern Suburbs & Illawarra Line and the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) implementing its Advanced Train Management System (ATMS) across the interstate network, interoperability will be key for the effectiveness of these technologies in enabling more traffic to run through the Sydney network. Read more

Predictive maintenance

Bombardier launches predictive maintenance service for rail signalling

Global rail manufacturer and signalling and rollingstock provider Bombardier has launched a new predictive maintenance service designed for rail signalling infrastructure.

Named EBI Sense, the technology turns asset performance data into insights, enabling decision-making on maintenance to reduce disruptions and increase availability.

Richard Hunter, president, rail control solutions, Bombardier Transportation, said the service would utilises the latest technology, such as wireless sensors, and web-based interfaces.

“The launch of our innovative, cloud-native, predictive maintenance service for signalling is a transformative step towards realising the benefits of digitalisation for railway performance,” said Hunter.

The system is designed for widely distributed rail systems including trackside assets such as point machines and track circuits.

Based off the data collected, algorithms can predict equipment failure and schedule maintenance.

The subscription-based service is designed to be easy to use on a mobile app or web browser.

The system was developed in-house by Bombardier’s Sweden-based rail control solutions services team.

“Developed through a combination of technology and expertise combined with the latest exciting digital enablers, EBI Sense is a true reflection of our commitment to continuously innovate and add value for our customers across their system’s entire lifecycle,” said Hunter.

interlockings

Thales, Alstom selected as part of SNCF signal interlockings innovation program

Proposals from Thales and Alstom have been selected as part of an innovation partnership for next generation signal interlockings organised by French rail network owner SNCF Réseau.

The Argos program was launched in 2018 to develop new computer-controlled signal interlockings and has now announced three groups which will progress to the development phase. Along with Thales and Alstom, Hitachi Rail has also been selected.

The project aims to update old, existing interlocking boxes that are increasingly obsolete and in need of renewal with digital replacements.

The future interlocking boxes will be able to transmit information in real time, reducing failures and maintenance while improving traffic flows. Without the need for immediate relays, the physical footprint of the interlocking boxes will also be reduced, further reducing maintenance and installation costs.

“Our goal is to roll out an efficient, resilient, easily maintainable system that can be installed and tested with minimum impact on traffic,” said Anne-Sophie Naboulet-Larcher, technological strategy and contract award manager at SNCF Réseau.

In the Argos program, each participant will upgrade an existing installation and develop pre-series production interlockings. The first are scheduled for commissioning at the end of 2023.

The Thales proposal is working on the Lyon-Vienne corridor and has worked to reduce installation lead times by 30 per cent through new research and improving change management processes.

“We are proud that the first solution chosen by SNCF Réseau for developing its ‘high-performance network’ is that proposed by the Thales-ENGIE Solutions–Vossloh group for a new generation of computer-controlled interlockings making even greater use of digital technologies. It was 20 years ago that Thales began delivering computerised signalling systems and, over the years, it has built up a strong, trust-based relationship with SNCF Réseau, partnering it in the move towards converting the SNCF network to digital technologies,” said Yves Joannic, vice-president main line signalling, Thales.

The Alstom team has adapted the Smartlock interlocking technology for installation between Paris and Dijon. Reductions in total cost of ownership and deployment time have been part of the proposal.

“With railway systems becoming ever more complex, railway operators need a system that they can count on to guarantee the performance and availability of their system,” said Jean-Baptiste Eyméoud, president Alstom in France.

Alstom results

Alstom first to achieve certification for latest ETCS standards

Alstom is now the first company to be fully certified to the latest onboard and trackside European Train Control System (ETCS) standards.

Issued by independent railway certification and testing organisation Belgorail, the new certification allows for Alstom’s technology to be interoperable with Baseline 3 Maintenance Release 2 for the complete railway system.

“We are proud to have yet again set a new standard in rail. We are on track to gradually replacing all the existing incompatible systems throughout Europe and to optimising and boosting the international freight and passenger transport,” said Jean Francois-Beaudoin, SVP Alstom Digital Mobility.

ETCS is widely used throughout Europe for mainline and high-speed systems. In addition, the technology has been adopted internationally, with ETCS being implemented on Brisbane’s Cross River Rail project and on the Sydney Trains network. Other countries such as India, Taiwan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia have also adopted the European standard.

ETCS uses a digital radio-based system of train control, removing the need for trackside signalling equipment. Movement authority is transmitted to the cab of the train via GSM-R or GPRS mobile data technology. Train location is determined by balises and sensors and the onboard computer determines the maximum possible speed based on train location and track data.

The deployment of ETCS is marked by sequential baselines, of which Baseline 3 is the latest. The baselines set standards for the interoperability of physical in-cab and trackside equipment and software. The latest standards incorporate specifications for the use of more advanced radio technology such as GPRS, with GSM-R technology to be phased out in the 2030s.

Alstom supplies ETCS equipment via its Atlas solution, which represents 70 per cent of the world’s onboard rail systems in service and 18,000km of tracks wordwide.

9,000 trains globally have been equipped with the Atlas onboard solution, and 1,100 vehicles will be equipped with the Baseline 3 Release 2 solution.

Alstom is the first manufacturer to apply ETCS Level 3 in Germany, which involves a higher level of communication integrity to move to ‘moving block’ spacing.