Digitalisation, Engineering, Products & Technology, Research & Development, Signalling & Communications, Technology and IT

The evolution of mobile communications

Siemens Mobility has been at the forefront of railway mobile communications for more than 25 years, with the company’s GSM-R cab radio system providing operators worldwide with a robust and secure platform for voice and data communication.

This equipment is essential for the safe, smooth and efficient operation of railways, and as 5G FRMCS (Future Rail Mobile Communications System) is introduced, it is increasingly also being used to enable data to be passed around the railway, creating new opportunities to realise a range of benefits.

5G FRMCS is the next-generation worldwide telecommunication system for railways, which will ultimately replace GSM-R.

Supporting IP (internet protocol) voice and prioritisable IP data (critical; video; telemetry), 5G FRMCS is a key enabler for digitalisation within the rail industry and provides a range of opportunities to enhance the passenger experience with live video entertainment, video security transmission and dynamic passenger information systems.

A dual mode GSM-R/5G FRMCS solution that adapts and re-uses the existing on-board infrastructure will ensure costs are kept to a minimum whilst enabling a seamless migration for operators, and providing flexibility in terms of network deployment.

Siemens Mobility has revolutionised the GSM-R cab radio by adapting it to suit the next generation IP systems with railway specific requirements, future-proofing the cab radio by providing an upgrade path for operators to transition to 5G FRMCS.

The necessity to evolve and transition from GSMR to 5G FRMCS brings opportunities for smart applications to be introduced to existing on-board equipment.

One such example is a hardware-ready platform that provides innovative cab radio enhancements, with radios being used as a platform for a range of integrated smart applications, including Trainborne Condition Monitoring (TBCM).

Without the need for any new hardware, this low-cost solution offers benefits to many railway stakeholders, including infrastructure owners and their maintenance teams, rail passengers, train operating companies and train owners.

The application can be inexpensively retrofitted to trains equipped with GSM-R cab radios and is simply downloaded over air (provided that LTE and GPS antennas are installed).

A smart application, TBCM is an efficient way of managing, monitoring and maintaining the track, identifying areas that need to be maintained by simply using data collected from in-service trains that are equipped with a GSM-R cab radio.

In so doing, it transforms the way train operators and infrastructure owners can monitor the conditions of their track assets, as it wirelessly creates a digital representation of the track using information from every train on the route, without needing additional equipment fitted.

TBCM works remotely and can be activated on all GSM-R equipped in-service trains, enabling continuous monitoring of the infrastructure.

Using an additional processor card in the GSM-R cab radio and the built-in highly sensitive three-axis accelerometer (vibration sensor), TBCM captures the vibration of the train to highlight areas where the track is deteriorating and indicates where track issues are causing a rough ride for passengers.

The integrated accelerometers can detect a number of different track defects including voids, rough-ride and dip-track on both plain track and switches and crossings.

By digitally harvesting data from across the fleet in real time, TBCM can precisely identify areas of track where preventative or predictive maintenance is required.

A comparison between runs on the same section of track can highlight sections where the track is deteriorating, and the speed at which it is doing so, allowing maintenance teams to correct defects before they become more serious.

This allows maintainers to focus their activities on those areas, reducing time lost due to the imposition of temporary speed restrictions and damage to trains, significantly improving the overall safety and reliability of the network and enhancing passenger comfort.  Train delay costs, line closures, journey re-planning and speed restrictions are then all minimised.

With fleet wide TBCM installations, given multiple journeys by multiple trains, an automated assessment of the entire rail network can be provided in a very short period of time.

Analysis of a track section is therefore much more straightforward and accurate, helping to reduce the number of false alarms, and improve location accuracy and defect size.

With access through a user-friendly web-facing Windows browser, the system provides user-defined alerts, automated reporting, including whether the defects are on switching’s and crossings or plain track, and trend analysis.

It also enables trends to be identified, providing advanced warning of potential issues, and enabling planned, prioritised and preventive maintenance programs to be carried out.

This contributes to the overall decarbonisation of the railway as it keeps trains moving rather than waiting for issues to be cleared, allowing smooth and predictable journeys, which consequently will influence people to travel by train as a more sustainable mode of transport.

With its GSM-R equipment already fitted to main line trains worldwide, through these developments Siemens Mobility has harnessed the power of the equipment both to speed up and reduce the cost of adopting new technologies to deliver immediate benefits to the customer, operator and maintainer.