The growth in demand on the UK’s railways is remarkable, with the growth rate showing no signs of slowing.
To keep pace with this, we have to develop ways of unlocking more capacity within the confines and constraints of our existing rail infrastructure; building new railways is simply not a viable economic option across the network.
The digital railway concept is critically important to unlocking capacity, with the deployment of the European Train Control System and traffic management systems essential components in achieving this. However, it is important to remember that to deliver this much-needed extra capacity, we not only have to safely and efficiently move trains around, but also become much better at moving people, making sure they are in the right place at the right time to optimise the utilisation of the transport network.
To achieve these things, we need to improve the collection, analysis and use of the mass of data that is created – and for that to happen effectively, we need better communications networks. As little as five years ago, it was quite rare for a signalling company to talk about internet protocol (IP) networks, but now they are a major consideration on every project, with the signalling design for the Thameslink Programme one of the major drivers for the introduction of IP network technology.
Quite simply, without the introduction of this technology, it would not have been possible to meet the performance requirements for Thameslink; that is to deliver a reliable, 24 trains per hour service in each direction through the core section. The new Westrace Trackside System, which was required to achieve this target, was developed specifically for Thameslink and designed as an IP network-based solution.
Our engineers drew from the experience of the aerospace and defence sectors to develop safe, reliable, robust and secure IP networks. By introducing these networks, the amount and speed of data flowing through has increased significantly, enabling much more detailed and meaningful analysis to take place. Developed and delivered entirely within the UK, the creation, testing, proving, installation and commissioning of this technology is a great example of partnership-working with Network Rail. IP-based solutions are becoming much more prevalent in signalling systems as we migrate to a more digitalised railway, with the technology meeting many of the requirements of the digital railway programme.
Running safety critical infrastructure systems over a network means cybersecurity is of paramount importance and our IP solution meets the requirements of BS EN 50159:2010, which covers the security requirements for communications between safety-related equipment and transmission systems.
Now the network infrastructure is proven, attention turns to how best to collate and analyse the data, in collaboration with all the other systems that combine to make an operational railway, to deliver better, more efficient and more frequent journey options for passengers and freight.
● Mark Ferrer is operations director, digital railway, Siemens Rail Automation
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