Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, participated on 24 February in Cagliari, Sardinia, in the official launch of ERSAT, a last generation system which, first in Europe, interfaces and integrates railway technology – the ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) signalling system – with GALILEO, the satellite navigation and tracking system.
I am delighted to be here in Cagliari to attend the presentation of a system that will move railway signalling forward into the world.
Today Cagliari is the centre of the railway world. Speaking on behalf of UIC I will be commenting on both a global and technical level. The use of satellites for train localisation, in the context of future radio transmission of movement authority, will certainly promote the adoption of ERTMS and GSM-R. It will revitalise railway system operations wherever big investments, which are required for today’s approach for current ERTMS levels 1 and 2, are not sustainable. We are talking about secondary lines, inter-city main lines in desert areas and so on.
Many different control train systems have been developed in the world. Different approaches have shown their strengths, and their weaknesses. But all in the end have positively contributed to the safety of the rail system. Whatever the system or the technology, knowing the speed and position of a train, as well as its integrity, is a must for safety, and can become very relevant for the optimisation of line capacity, which all operators aspire to.
The technology available at the start simply cuts the rail line in various sections. The use of axle counters or track circuits to detect sections occupied by trains without any active help by the train itself – I’m talking about the present and a large majority of lines are still operated in this way. A certain number of so-called detecting devices these principles and algorithms – proven in service – still prevail.
In some countries, new digital devices for train detection have been implemented trackside: increasing performance, safety and maintainability, but their cost remains high and therefore their dissemination is limited.
In parallel to all this rolling stock and infrastructure have changed a lot, challenging the old technology of track circuits or axle counters with shunting defects or disruption. At the same time, new technology has produced a new generation of on-board train control systems with so-called self-control and reporting of the train’s speed and position to the train control centre.
The gradual adoption of satellite-based positioning systems, whether GPS, EGNOS, GLONAS, Galileo, will help problems of train detection, notably in long-runs or in areas not sufficiently urbanised. In turn, the satellite itself can become the only source of information for train positioning, as in SATLOC. And as I mention SATLOC, allow me to pay tribute to the memory of Gheorghe Barbu. He has now gone to the stars but his light still enlightens us.
So SATLOC, or also in the Russian system used in the Black Sea. It can also provide complementary information to be integrated with other sensors or sub-systems, like in ERSAT, which we are promoting today.
Satellite positioning and driverless operations are now becoming a reality both in air and sea traffic control, in the new concept cars such as Tesla and Google cars – so there is no reason not to integrate and use this technology in rail operations, and this is now the case with ERSAT, SATLOC, or, as I said, on the Adler, in the Black Sea.
SATLOC, in particular, was the first to develop the virtual balise in the pre-charged road map, so as to ease integration with ERTMS without modifying its overall structure.
UIC has been a leader in the development of SATLOC, and is proud to contribute to this digital revolution. We are the technical leader in the development of the Future Rail Mobile Communication System (FRMCS), which is the only system which will include a future channel for the direct transmission via satellite of train movements, in accordance of course with all protocols – with nothing to install on the track anymore, just on the vehicles – this is a fantastic benefit. But it has to be managed with the real standardisation of the GRTMS on-board unit, including interfacing with the on-board virtual balise reader. A local standard OBU (On Board Unit) will boost the implementation of GRTMS level 3 satellite in future regional low-traffic lines, but before expansion of the system.
Yes, my friends, we are going global and now call the system GRTMS (Global Rail Traffic Management System) to make the most and best between what is done in our old, wonderful Europe, and what has been developed in other regions of the world, where ERTMS has become a reference. And by the way, together with FSI we are organising the first GRTMS conference in Milan in April 2018. In Brussels I was the first to say that I will not organise the 13th ERTMS conference, but the first GRTMS conference. And this is now going to come true.
When we look at our global digital future at UIC we believe that our suppliers and friends will need to adapt from a number of closed, regional markets towards a single market for train control. Hopefully, with the input of Shift2Rail a convergence towards hardware and software standards and platforms will enable different requests to be answered from different networks and operators with low-cost standardised devices in accordance with, once again, existing signalling logics.
Just look at what is happening today with the industrial standard gauge for the development of safety critical applications. Or just the Android operating system on all your mobile telephones. So let us move forward together towards this digital future for the railways of our world. Let us build this new business strategy in a digital world.
And I will conclude with a quote by Victor Hugo, who was French but who loved Italy, who said at the beginning of the 19th century: There will come a time with no other battlefields than markets opening up to the roads of trade and minds opening up to the gates of ideas. I will be happy if UIC can modestly contribute to build this future based on our past and present experience and on our philosophy to open, to share and to connect, together.
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