Tuesday 3 April 2018

Key messages from the first UIC Global Signalling conference in Milan

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The first UIC conference on signalling was held successfully in Milan from 26 to 28 March, with a focus on operational and normative ERTMS developments. More than 500 international participants attended presentations given by more than 50 experts and leaders from the railway signalling and telecoms sector, with participants from many European countries as well as China, the United States and India. Key ERTMS stakeholders including DG Move, ERA, UNIFE and CER shared their vision on the evolution of the market and its technologies.

All of the participants agreed that ERTMS is now considered a stable technology, enabling accelerated investment all over the world. With this in mind, several new plans for financing at national or European level were presented; the aim of such plans is to sustain and increase the pace of ERTMS deployment. It was largely agreed that ERTMS was increasingly becoming a game changer for the rail industry, increasing the interoperability, capacity, maintenance and safety of railway networks, and thus optimising profitability for rolling stock operators.

Positive feedback was also received from major railway companies in Austria, Denmark and China, for example. It was very interesting to learn about the organisation of railway companies in the United States, the rules governing them, and their vision going forward.

On the topic of technical developments, ATO initiatives and initial plans focussing on GoA3 and GoA4, which aim to develop autonomous and driverless trains, were examined in detail and sparked significant general interest.

Another key evolution - the FRMCS programme - was discussed and analysed at length. FRMCS is seen by the Railway community as the way forward after GSM-R, an essential component of the ERTMS system. The objective is to reach the same overall level of interoperability, to increase bandwidth capacity and, more generally, to extend the railway telecom networks to both critical and performance applications, paving the way toward real and concrete digitalisation of the railway industry. The need for spectrum to achieve these objectives was highlighted several times by the various speakers.

ETCS Level 3 was also a key topic at the conference. It is regarded as a cost-effective solution for regional lines, and several innovative approaches were considered, such as new methods of geolocation and use of satellite communications. There was a particular focus on disruptive technologies such as virtual balises and smart systems for train integrity.

Last but not least, part of the conference was dedicated to cybersecurity, with recognised specialists in railway security explaining their vision and their strategies, as well as a number of specific solutions to the problems associated with this multi-sector threat. Regarding rail Cybersecurity, UIC is involved in the EU project CYRAIL funded by Shift2Rail. CYRail aims to have a significant impact on enhancing the operational security level of the different rail segments and the robustness of the railway information, control and signalling sub-systems. The CYRAIL final conference with the presentation of the results will be held at UIC HQ on 18 September 2018.

Closing the conference, Mr Marc Antoni, UIC Rail System Director, said that “Signalling is at the heart of railway systems. We must be economically efficient and – in order to do so - we must work together, making ETCS more successful than it is today. Let’s set a target for signalling to be as interoperable as we are in railway telecoms, particularly in GSM-R. We see the emergence of Level 3 and ATO as clear ways to optimise costs. And we must look for greater convergence between the different systems. This convergence is the ambition of the FRMCS programme: becoming more and more global. And if FRMCS is to be even more global than GSM-R and enable the real digitalisation of the railway industry, the railway community must push to obtain the necessary spectrum. We need this spectrum for interoperability and digitalisation”.

Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director-General, said “We are very satisfied with the quantity and the quality of the discussions. Thanks to the organisers, analysts and sponsors for having shared our philosophy at UIC, which is summarised in 3 words: open, share, connect.

“We are now going to move towards something else - projects, standards, research, training, but also conferences. We organise 80 of these conferences a year. The biggest ones focus on system components, on the business, but also on fundamental values of railways such as safety, security, digital, sustainability and research.

“As far as sustainability is concerned, I want to make some parallels with what is happening today: we are working a lot with the UN and we are involved in the preparation of the COP, the Climate Conference. In these conferences on sustainable development, we have seen an evolution from a vision to the need for action, from mitigation to adaptation. With CCS, we are in the same situation. The vision we need now is quicker action and better implementation”.

A couple of key words come up regularly:

  • Corridors: corridors between countries/continents
  • Collaboration: between stakeholders, operators and manufacturers, and between members state as well. We work better together.
  • Complementarity/compatibility: between systems. Another key message: signalling and telecoms must work closely together.
  • Connectivity: FRMCS is one of the keys to better connectivity for better security and safety.
  • Cash is needed: there are a lot of investments to be made in rail mobility, probably more than what has already been done. Two trillion dollars are needed every year if we wish to meet the SDGs and respect the two-degree scenario set out in COP 21. But the savings for society, compared to business as usual, for intra-mobility and intermobility projects can offset these investments, making them virtuous and sustainable. Investing in the most sustainable mode of transport to increase its capacity with CCS and FRMCS has an excellent eco-scoring”.

He also said: “The interest invites us to imagine the next steps. We feel the fresh air of FRMCS, of ATO, of satellite. These three concepts, together with ERTMS, will certainly be introduced at the World Congress on Research that will be held in Japan next year. After the positive success of this first Global Conference on Signalling, there will surely be a second global conference in 2020. There is a high probability that this second conference will be held in Russia. Thanks to everyone again for the excellent collaboration between all.”

For further information please contact Marc Antoni, Head of the UIC Rail System Department: antoni@uic.org

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from left to right: Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, Mr Renato Mazzoncini, UIC Chairman and CEO of FS, Mrs Tamara Romay, FS, Mrs Laura Gentile, FS, Mr Alberto Mazzola, FS.
Mr Marc Antoni, UIC Rail System Director
Mr Jean-Michel Evanghelou, UIC Rail System Department
Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General final conclusions