Information published on 7 June 2016 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 502.

France: SNCF and CNES launch innovative “Rail and Space” technology ecosystem

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SNCF and France’s National Space Studies Centre (CNES) are to collaborate in seeking innovative solutions for rail to meet the challenges of the digital revolution. The two organisations have thus agreed to create a “Rail and Space” Coordinating Committee co-chaired by SNCF Chairman Guillaume Pepy and CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall.

Whether traffic management, onboard Internet access or geopositioning, there are many areas in which rail and space studies can productively work together. On the back of recent actions engaged by its Innovation, Applications and Science Directorate, CNES has joined with SNCF to create a “Rail and Space” Coordinating Committe tasked with identifying potential fields of cooperation and placing relations between the two partners on a formal footing. The committee will be co-chaired by the SNCF Chairman and CNES President, and will meet once a year.

At its inaugural meeting in February 2016, the committee identified various avenues of enquiry:

  • Modernising command-control systems, potentially drawing on Europe’s Galileo satellite navigation system,
  • Very high speed onboard broadband using new Ka-band satellites,
  • Securing the rail network using optical imaging,
  • Using radar for the surveillance of tracks and trackside areas.

Technical trials in some of these areas are already underway. The two partners are also working together on the data economy, seeking to pool their expertise in processing, sharing and adding value to the wealth of data that they generate.

Two working groups comprising SNCF and CNES experts are to be set up to discuss these topics. The Coordinating Committee will subsequently review the groups’ progress and areas for cooperation identified.

CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall said “This latest cooperative venture and the Committee illustrate perfectly what CNES’s new Directorate of Innovation, Applications and Science is all about. CNES needs to be omnipresent wherever our technologies and the benefits of space science can optimise results and create synergies, and the areas of work we have identified with SNCF are a perfect fit. It is also an honour for CNES to collaborate with SNCF, whose history and prestige are inextricably linked with those of France.”

SNCF Chairman Guillaume Pepy commented that “Today, SNCF is stepping up the pace of technological change in the railway, focusing on the Group’s top priorities of safety, capacity, and competitiveness. Our aim is to further improve service quality for our customers. We need to expand our ecosystem; signing this framework agreement will open up new collaboration between SNCF and CNES in the priority areas we have already identified. I believe that space technology has real potential for the rail industry. It will require adaptation, and the costs need to be significantly optimised - as with the industrial-scale roll-out of any technology - but our teams will work towards this goal together.”

(Source: SNCF)