On 7 and 8 December 2015, at the invitation of JSC NIIAS, a subsidiary company of JSC RZD and affiliated member of UIC, Marc Antoni, Director of the UIC Rail System Department, attended a demonstration of the Russian train separation system developed by JSC NIIAS. A Lastochka EMU (Siemens Desiro trains adapted to Russian operational requirements) equipped with the on-board system travelled along the Adler – Matsesta line of the North Caucasus Railway under the supervision of RBCs that sent movement authorities to the train and received the train movement parameters via a GSM-R radio channel. The GSM-R network was deployed in the area before the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi in order to create an additional safety loop.
The demonstrated system is overlaid on the national automatic cab signalling system (ALSN and ALS-EN). This means that in addition to the ALSN and ALS-EN coded signals transmitted on-board via track circuits, the radio channel also transmits the end of a movement authority and speed profile.
The system has been developed using ERTMS/ETCS Level 2 technology, but incorporates a number of significant improvements. For instance, instead of discrete sensors (balises) installed along the track in order to ensure train detection, the system implements virtual balise technology involving special reference points along the digital model of the line which are stored in the on-board electronic map. The technology integrates the positioning data acquired by the odometry and GPS/GLONASS satellite navigation systems.
Additionally, in case of radio signal loss in the conventional ERTMS/ETCS Level 2 system, after a specified time, service braking is initiated up to a complete stop, with the possibility of subsequent slow movement under the driver’s authority. In the system developed by JSC NIIAS, if the radio connection is lost, the system defaults to operation using national automatic cab signalling codes. In other words, the Russian solution implements a multi-layer train control architecture that ensures not only high system availability, but traffic safety as well.
As part of the demonstration, the system was tested in normal and degraded operational modes, for instance, in the absence of ALSN and ALS-EN codes or loss of RBC communication. After the demonstration trip, the local high speed traffic directorate that operates Lastochka commuter trains hosted a workshop that involved representatives of JSC RZD departments and JSC NIIAS experts. The participants discussed the prospects of the new system’s application and agreed that it is applicable to all categories of lines, including low-traffic and high speed lines. It was noted that in terms of its parameters, the demonstrated system actually represents a variant of the ERTMS/ETCS Level 3 system, while having a very important distinctive feature that enables a multi-layer safety architecture. This feature is of great importance given the existing threats of GSM-R channel disruption, including those implemented by means of electromagnetic jamming. The workshop participants also discussed the prospects and opportunities of formalising functional requirements for the RBC/IXL interface, as well as functional requirements for the ERTMS/ETCS Level 3 system as part of a joint UIC project.
For reference, over several years a number of research programmes have been implemented under the auspices of UIC, aimed at demonstrating the viability of an ERTMS/ETCS Level 3 system based on satellite navigation and virtual balise concept. The SATLOC project is an example of such activities. It must be acknowledged that the technical performance of the system demonstrated by the Russian party is superior to the solution implemented in Romania.
JSC NIIAS experts expressed their willingness to take part in several projects already underway or soon to start within UIC that deal with the demonstration of innovative train control solutions. In particular, it was also agreed that JSC NIIAS would take part in the development of functional requirements specifications for the ERTMS/ETCS Level 3 system based on the solutions implemented in the Russian system that are to be formalised as a UIC standard.