Network Rail’s plans for a more affordable, higher performance railway have taken a step forward with the award of contracts to design and develop a new nationwide traffic management system for Britain’s rail network.
Traffic management technology forms an integral part of Network Rail’s operating strategy, which seeks to consolidate control of Britain’s rail network from more than 800 signal boxes into 14 state-of-the-art rail operating centres over the next 30 years. Once fully implemented, this strategy will cut the cost of Britain’s railways by £250m each year, improve industry efficiency, reduce delays and provide more accurate and timely information to staff and passengers.
Hitachi Rail Europe, Signalling Solutions (a joint venture between Alstom Transport and Balfour Beatty Rail) and Thales UK are now working with Network Rail to design and develop a traffic management software prototype, due for completion in December 2013. This will be subject to vigorous testing and evaluation before being rolled out across the network from 2014.
Robin Gisby, managing director of network operations, Network Rail, said: “As the number of people and businesses relying on rail continues to grow, it is vital we have the technology to make the best use of Britain’s rail infrastructure. Working with our suppliers, our focus is on developing a system which meets the needs of Network Rail, our customers and passengers, helping deliver a leaner, more efficient and reliable railway.”
This new, highly automated system will allow larger areas of the network to be controlled from fewer locations and will help increase capacity and improve reliability. For instance, it will be able to include real-time planning, prediction and resolution of conflicts, areas of control will be easily reconfigured when operational needs dictate and it will include a single operational information system, providing real-time information to train companies and passengers, particularly during times of disruption.
Traffic management systems are used extensively, and successfully, around the world on a number of rail networks. Network Rail has analysed and compared best practice from these different systems in order to develop a reliable product which will suit the varied demands of Britain’s complex rail network.
A working group of future users of the system – including signallers, control centre and other operations staff and passenger and freight operating company staff, plus trade union representatives – is helping shape the system, roles and ways of working.