Passenger numbers have doubled in the last 20 years and expectations are that numbers will only continue to increase. Supporting this growth by adding more lines of track and connections would be economically ruinous, and would cause hugely unpopular disruption.
So how can the railway cope with the anticipated increase of one billion extra journeys by the mid-2030’s?
The railway is moving away from mechanical and analogue train protection systems towards a smarter digital world, utilising the next generation of signalling and train control technology to increase capacity, reduce delays, enhance safety and drive down costs.
This new technology consists of zillions of sensors coupled to high-speed fibre and 5G network connections, creating big data about the whole system that machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence can analyse in a way no human ever could, to predict and prevent incidents.
Real-time onboard driver information and microsecond control centre tracking of train positions and speeds will also result, leading to improved timetable and route planning. This upgrade finally moves the railway away from block signalling, which was first developed in the mid 1800’s.
Until recently, the rail location cases (LOC’s) that housed low tech equipment and cable jointing points along the side of tracks only had to fulfil a few simple criteria to gain Network Rail’s approval:-
- Vandal resistant to LPS1175 Level 2
- Railway specific shock and vibration tests
- Weatherproof rating of IP55
- Expected lifetime of 10 years
But to enable the planned advances the humble location case, or “LOC” in railway jargon, must provide better protection, require less maintenance and safely support more sophisticated digital equipment that will be housed within.
The introduction of DFR (Design For Reliability) by Network Rail emphasises up-front thinking to design in high system availability and reliability as an absolute priority, and well before suppliers can apply for product acceptance and a PADS (Parts and Drawing System) number.
Established in 1982, Rainford Solutions Ltd has worked with several leading organisations on testbed Digital Railway projects, and developing the next generation LOC family, Rainford Solutions’ TRACKSAFE™.
TRACKSAFE™ has been deigned to operate at a much higher level than a tradition LOC case and has addressed the future needs for digital signalling by protecting against hazards that could otherwise degrade performance, and ultimately compromise safety on the Railway these include:
- Vandals, thieves, and saboteurs
- Environmental – weather, wind and rain, dew condensation, frost, solar gain
- Environmental – high voltages, electromagnetic fields, radio frequency interference
- Environmental – atmospheric dust, including very fine train brake dust
- Environmental – heat that the equipment generated
- Impact – Potential effect of flying debris from a passing train
Our UK engineering team is experienced in developing solutions for challenges with thermal, electro-magnetic (EMC), seismic, shock and vibration, ingress protection (IP), and vandals, certified to global civilian and military standards.
Operating from a modern factory located in St Helens, UK, Rainford Solutions’ facilities are built with the highest level of flexibility and capacity for volume manufacture, to support national infrastructure projects.