In the era of exponential population growth increasing congestion, railway emergency management systems and overall rail communication networks need to work smarter to enable on-time train services.
With rail passenger numbers growing globally, resolving incidents quickly is crucial to guaranteeing on time services.
Rail passenger numbers in Sydney are set to double by 2024. To prepare, Sydney Trains decided to undergo modernisation in order to enable more efficient response times and keep passengers moving. So the operator set itself on a path to centralising 14 control centres into one streamlined Rail Operations Centre (ROC).
This signalled a move away from individual controllers at local train stations to bigger control centres. Operators at the Sydney Trains ROC deployed Frequentis’ Incident and Crisis Management (ICM) solution in late 2018 to support the move and enhance incident resolution.
The ICM is a railway emergency management system (REM) enabling workflow-based incident management, a common operational picture and mobile collaboration. It uses a resolution workflow based on the time, location and classification of the occurrence to instantly identify and connect internal and external stakeholders, whilst also logging every activity to satisfy legal requirements.
The cost-effective tool can be deployed within a short timeframe. “Being able to respond and recover from incidents faster will ensure that we can cater for the projected capacity increases and meet the customer demand of the future,” ROC program director, Geoff Howard, said.
Frequentis Australasia head of delivery, Ruth Trojan explained how the ICM works: “The ICM guides the user through the necessary steps to be performed in an incident situation, depending on the type of the incident and stakeholders involved in resolving it. The ICM solution tool enables different groups to work on the same incident together, adding and editing information simultaneously. Furthermore, the ICM mobile application gives staff at stations and on trains real-time information about what´s happening.
“All these features and functions speed up the workflow and lead to less errors. The ICM also documents all steps undertaken during incident resolution for post-incident and safety analysis.”
The REM has been in use in Sydney Trains ROC since December 2018, with the mobile application and web portal deployed to Sydney Trains Customer Service teams by June 2019.
“A step-by-step modernisation of Sydney’s rail network has incorporated many different operational functions and systems into a single location, including implementing the ICM from Frequentis,” Howard said. “Senior executives praise the efficiencies the Frequentis solution brings to their incident management and operators comment that they ‘don’t need their notepads any longer’.”
The benefits of this are plentiful, but when streamlining multiple operation centres, an initial concern is often the loss of local knowledge. Frequentis says, however, that their ICM solution ensures that this is not the case.
It does this by capturing information centrally, including contact numbers for local contractors and emergency services. Based on the underlying responsibility model, staff have all the information relevant for a specific location available and can record, manage and access incidents efficiently and safely from a mobile device, web portal or desktop client.
“All our products increase the safety of rail operations because they support the user in his decision making and in his communication in “normal” operation as well as in incident situations,” Frequentis AG head of public transport solutions, Markus Myslivec, said.
“Our products follow a clear roadmap, driven by customer needs and standardisation and in addition, they have a rich feature set, tailored to customer needs.”
Another Frequentis solution tailored for the new era of control centres is their operations communications manager (OCM) which unifies communications within a single AudioHub media-device with a longlasting life cycle.
When asked about the future of railway communications and the move to the Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS), Myslivec said, “Frequentis has already evolved its fixed terminal system for rail voice communication, FTS 3020, to become a multi-bearer solution, meaning that it allows communication over not only GSM-R (Global System for Mobile Communications – Railways), but also TETRA and LTE, therefore providing a Bearer Independent Communication (BIC) solution and unifying operator experience at the same time. It is a web-based smart terminal, the Operations Communication Manager (OCM) provides a flexible, easy to configure and rapid to deploy human machine interface (HMI). “The FTS/OCM are the “sixth sense of the operator”, they ensure highly-reliable communication and information functions to support the operator in his decision and communication process in his daily business.”
As the FRMCS starts to develop as the successor to GSM-R, it becomes important for railway network operators to take advantage of alternative bearers. The Frequentis FTS/ OCM solution will provide railway Mission Critical Services to mobile and fixed line users via one single system with one single core network but various access networks.
The clear separation of applications – services – transport follows a bearer independent communication approach and will lead to easier migration from existing systems and easier integration of legacy and new applications. Several benefits come with FRMCS, for example: the usage of standardised interfaces ensures interoperability. As FRMCS will most likely be based on 5G technologies and architecture, it will also bring broadband communication to allow, for example, live video feeds during an incident situation, subject to the availability of appropriate spectrum.
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