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NEW TECHNOLOGIES ON WORLD RAILWAYS
(1) Nowadays one can hardly find fields in human activity where electronic machines or devices are not used. Traffic control, sorting yard operations, compiling schedules, designing locomotives and many other hard and time-consuming jobs are being increasingly performed by computers.
(2) Perhaps, the most important trend in train control at present is the change of technology. Yesterday’s technology was electro-mechanical; today electronic and computer technology dominates in rail traffic control and safety systems. Modern signalling is one important sphere of new technologies. Railroad signals (like the semaphore signal) are form of communication designed to inform the train crew of track conditions ahead and to instruct it how to operate the train. Traditional signals, which can be recorded, are speed, time, and distance. A number of digital signals such as door opening, brake application, switch positions, lamps, etc, as well as some analogue signals such as current and catenary1 voltage, are now added for recording. Recently the terms like radio-based signalling or telematics2 have been added to traditional signalling terminology. We are on the brink of3 a revolution which will transform signalling as we know it within the next decade.
(3) The automation of railway services is leading to computer-integrated railroading, in which radio plays a very important role. On modern railways there is a clear trend towards the so-called railway operation control system (ROC) based on radio transmission. ROC includes traffic safety and train control, which supersedes traditional signalling. It helps to coordinate the operation of high-speed passenger services and slower freight trains on the same tracks, as well as the use of double-track lines in both directions. With the help of ROC, there will soon be virtual or electronic coupling of trains into a chain driving at a high speed. Together with ‘smart’ trains and ‘intelligent’ dispatching and control centres, ROC will form a triangle4 for improved profitability for the railways.
(4) A great leap forward in radio-based communications systems is Transmission Based Signalling (TBS). The first systems are now being developed and installed, and undoubtedly TBS will become the preferred signalling technology for the world’s metro and mainline railways.
TBS has a number of essential advantages over conventional signalling. First of all, it eliminates the need for tracks-circuits5. Under TBS, trains establish their position through the use of the train equipment. Each train receives a movement authority6 based on the speed of the train that is constantly updated by radio. This information is presented to the driver on a cab display or passed to an Automatic Train Operation (ATO) controller. Safety is also increased due to the use Automatic Train Protection (ATP), which is a feature of TBS.
(5) Britain is one of the first countries to adopt TBS. Jubilee Line of London Underground is currently the largest metro project underway in Europe. It needs the most technically advanced and innovative train control and signalling system, which is why the London Underground chose TBS. TBS is also being considered by railways throughout the world, from New York City Transit in the United States to metros in the Far East, and for many of the Trans European Network (TEN) routes throughout Europe.
(6) The second trend, which becomes visible, is increasing standardization. Within Europe, there exist 27 different signalling systems, five different types of electrification, different track and loading gauges, and different operating rules between national railways. It stands to reason7, that signalling and train control systems have to be interoperable to ensure the safe and smooth flow of rail transport. With this aim, the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) has been designed. ERTM consists of European Train Control System (ETCS) and Global Systems for Mobile Communication for Railways (GSM-R). They are all aimed at ‘Europeanizing’ national signalling systems and improving cross-border traffic so that the driver will always receive the same signalling information regardless of which country he is operating at the time. As all major signalling companies are involved in the development of ERTMS, it will soon be a radio-signalling standard for the world. German Rail (DB) became the first railway in Europe to implement GSM-R – the new standard for digital train radio on the Cologne – Frankfurt high-speed line in 2002. Thus, DB is pioneering the technological transition from older analogue networks to the new generation of digital systems.
(7) Another highly-significant project for an interoperable railway system will be a standardized European Driver’s Desk (EUDD) designed for interoperable rail services across borders. The EUDD will improve safety and working conditions by replacing hardware controls with flexible software display functions. The new driver’s desk should also allow the introduction of new technologies, such as the further development of telematics-based control systems and Man-Machine-Interface.
(8) The electronic technique known as simulation creates virtual rail environment. Cab simulators have traditionally been applied only to driver training. The latest generation of multiple simulators can now be networked together to represent an ‘integrated railworld’ which is much more complex than a single train in isolation. Such integrated simulators offer joint training for drivers, train controllers and operations control staff, all interacting in multidisciplinary teams. Using virtual reality theatres, a wider range of training scenarios can be provided. The trainees then can fully understand how their actions affect each other, which, in effect, helps to reduce human error in critical situations.
(9) New developments in information technology and ever-expanding Internet have changed the world and the way of presenting passenger information. CyberRail is a new multi-media concept providing real-time information for passengers throughout their journey from door-to-door, taking into account every mode of transport. Passengers, railway operators and other railway companies can freely transmit, collect, and process the information. Passengers receive personalized travel plans, and railway operators can offer services according to demand.
Electronic smart card ticketing and booking tickets on the Internet have become a regular thing for passengers. More and more countries are adopting smart cards with embedded chip instead of paper-based ticketing systems. Smart cards hold much more information than a magnetic stripe, and can be also used outside the mass transit systems for which they were designed, for instance, as ‘electronic purses’. From contactless cards reloaded via the Internet to virtual tickets on mobile phones, today’s technology has no limits.
(10) It is safe to say that investment in rail research is paid many times over. New technologies will transform railways in the foreseeable future. In this information-intensive age, the modernization of signalling and telecommunications is even more important than the pursuit of higher train speeds. Future railway technologies have to be highly effective, interoperable, safe, environmentally friendly and allow for rapid innovation in the railway system.
1 catenary – контактний провід
2 telematics – телематика, інтегровані системи, що поєднують засоби зв’язку та обчислювальну техніку
3 we are on the brink of – ми на порозі, на грані
4 triangle – трикутник
5 track circuit – рейковий ланцюг
6 a movement authority – шляхові інструкції
7 it stands to reason – само собою зрозуміло
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