4Tel’s recent work installing Electronic Authority functionality on a NSW rail network is just one example of where digital technology can help the industry, managing director Derel Wust says.
A telecommunications engineer by trade, Wust says the rail industry can benefit significantly through the use of modern digital technologies to solve railway safety and operational problems.
“One issue the rail industry generally doesn’t understand is ‘digital’ communications, and the safety and efficiency benefits that can be derived from digital solutions,” Wust said in a Q&A with Rail Express affiliate Informa Insights this week.
“For example, the rail industry will often refer to the need for ‘vital communications’ to protect safety for the carriage of signalling data.
“However, in the digital world, communications are not vital as all communications use connectionless packets of data. Communications can be interrupted at any time.
“Therefore, safety is achieved by safe processes, not any given communications path used. The only common methodology between the two concepts is that systems need to ‘fail-safe’.”
4Tel develops and maintains systems as a subcontractor on John Holland’s Country Regional Network in NSW.
As part of its most recent work for John Holland, 4Tel has delivered Electronic Authority functionality within the Train Management and Control System’s computer-based Train Orders System.
Under the new system, Wust explained, an Electronic Authority is transmitted to the train as an encrypted digital message, and is then displayed on the train-fitted radio screen.
“Prior to this enhancement, a Movement Authority was issued by the Network Controller, initiating a voice telephone call to the train driver, and reading out the Electronic Authority contents for the driver to write down onto a form,” Wust explained.
“Voice-based authorities are time-consuming to issue and prone to human error. By digitising this process, we have increased safety and efficiency of both above and below rail operations without the need to fit any new equipment to a locomotive.”
This project went live on June 25 this year, and uptake has been very high, according to Wust.
“Just last week [July 19 to 25], we had an average of 91% of Electronic Authorities for the week and we anticipate reaching closer to 100% in the near future,” he said.
“The response from John Holland Network Controllers and the train drivers to the implementation of Electronic Authorities has been very positive.”
Wust will speak at the Telecommunications and Train Control Forum in Sydney next month. Click here for more information.