Rail Industry Focus

01.11.12

Traffic management

Source: Rail Technology Magazine October/November 2012

RTM speaks to Hitachi Rail Europe about the concept behind its prototype traffic management system being developed for Network Rail, and its bid leader Emilio Diez tells us how it could integrate with both modern and legacy signalling systems.

Network Rail is pushing ahead with its plans to implement a new traffic management system to help predict and resolve conflicts and speed up recovery after disruptions, aimed at cutting costs and improving PPM. It has whittled its list of six potential suppliers (from more than 60 original expressions of interest) down to three – Hitachi Rail Europe, Signalling Solutions and Thales UK – each of whom are now developing a prototype.

The highly automated system, to be rolled out from 2014, allows more of the network to be controlled from fewer locations, in line with Network Rail’s broader operational aims, and will help with real-time planning and reconfiguration.

It is “integral” to the plans to consolidate more than 800 signal boxes into 14 modern operating centres and could cut around £250m off the annual cost of running the railways.

Decision tools

Emilio Diez, who leads for Hitachi Rail Europe on the project, has years of experience at the company’s Japanese headquarters, where its systems have long been successfully used.

He told us: “Traffic management provides more and better integration of the different data and different systems we have already in the network. It also provides decision tools that will help the railway i n f r a s t r u c t u r e manager, in this case Network Rail, make better decisions about how to regulate the traffic. “In effect, that allows for quick recovery after disruptions. If we have a disruption in the network, then using these decision tools, we will be able to identify conflicts and resolve those conflicts, and then because the system is very well integrated, changes to the timetable and the current status of the network will be transmitted to the driver and to the passengers, so they will have better information about the status of the network.”

Clearly it is vital that such a system will need to integrate with different signalling methods, both legacy ones and the state-of-the-art. Diez said the system can talk directly to the interlocking system in modern systems and can do so through interface devices on legacy systems.

Working with Network Rail

The precise details of how involved the successful traffic management system provider will be with Network Rail are unclear. But Diez said: “With traffic management, the way we work with other customers, is that we have a very close relationship with the infrastructure company, where we keep maintaining and supporting it. It’s like a software system that we keep upgrading and enhancing with new functionality the customer wants. We see ourselves as providing a service for the longterm: it’s not a packaged product we hand over.”

During the prototype and testing phase this year and next, the Hitachi team will build on its experience of its Japanese system to see what similarities and differences there are.

Diez said: “One of the key things we provide is technology to be able to support high-density lines, which we have with Thameslink or Crossrail: that level of tph is something we do in Japan.”

Hitachi Rail Europe told us it had “all confidence” that its technology can make the network safer and help it operate more smoothly, aided by all its experience on the railway operations side. Diez suggested that incident recovery alone could have a big effect on reducing the cost of the railway.

‘A huge amount of interest’

The system was showcased at InnoTrans 2012 in Berlin in September, alongside a life-size new bogie design and a simulator showing off Hitachi’s ETCS capabilities. Spokeswoman Daniela Karthaus told us: “The feedback was very positive, and there seemed to be a huge amount of interest not just from the UK but from the European rail industry in general.”

Robin Gisby, Network Rail’s managing director of network operations, said: “As the number of people and businesses relying on rail continues to grow, it is vital we have the technology to make the best use of Britain’s rail infrastructure. Working with our suppliers, our focus is on developing a system which meets the needs of Network Rail, our customers and passengers, helping deliver a leaner, more efficient and reliable railway.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email us directly at opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

Above image: Hitachi stand at InnoTrans 2012

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