PAUL STEPHEN finds out why Al­stom is in­te­grat­ing its sig­nalling and in­fra­struc­ture op­er­a­tions in the UK and how this will help it bring broader ben­e­fits to the UK’s rail­ways

Rail (UK) - - Special Report -

Al­stom al­ready has an en­vi­able rep­u­ta­tion in the UK as a global leader in the man­u­fac­ture and main­te­nance of rolling stock. The sta­tis­tics speak for them­selves; ap­prox­i­mately one third of all daily rail jour­neys com­pleted in this coun­try are made on Al­stom trains. The com­pany has also built many of the network’s most in­ten­sively used fleets, in­clud­ing Vir­gin Trains’ Pen­dolinos, Lon­don Un­der­ground’s Ju­bilee Line stock and the UK’s first very high speed train - the Eurostar e300s.

But Al­stom has many more strings to its bow, and it is now earn­ing a grow­ing dis­tinc­tion for its in­fra­struc­ture de­sign, build and main­te­nance ca­pa­bil­i­ties, fol­low­ing its in­volve­ment in high-pro­file flag­ship projects, such as Cross­rail, where it forms an in­te­gral part of the ATC joint ven­ture cur­rently fit­ting out and com­mis­sion­ing the line’s tun­nelled cen­tral sec­tion.

Al­stom is also a key player in the ABC Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion joint ven­ture, which is cur­rently en­gaged in a wide range of multi-bil­lion-pound elec­tri­fi­ca­tion projects for Network Rail, such as the Ed­in­burgh-Glas­gow Im­prove­ment Pro­gramme.

In this area of its busi­ness ac­tiv­i­ties, Al­stom prides it­self on hav­ing a firm com­mit­ment to a con­tin­u­ous cy­cle of in­vest­ment and in­no­va­tion, in or­der to de­liver the next gen­er­a­tion of so­phis­ti­cated tech­nolo­gies and in­tel­li­gent en­gi­neer­ing so­lu­tions. All of these are care­fully de­signed to im­prove the pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence while also re­duc­ing the cost and car­bon foot­print to the client of build­ing and main­tain­ing modern in­fra­struc­ture.

This is per­haps best demon­strated by Al­stom sig­nalling, which is con­tribut­ing heav­ily to Network Rail’s Dig­i­tal Rail­way pro­gramme, that aims to es­tab­lish in-cab sig­nalling and au­to­matic train con­trol to boost ca­pac­ity across the UK rail network within the next 25 years.

Un­der Dig­i­tal Rail­ways Early Con­trac­tor In­volve­ment Frame­work, Al­stom is con­tin­u­ing the de­vel­op­ment of its Euro­pean Train Con­trol Sys­tem (ETCS, Level 2) and Traf­fic Man­age­ment Sys­tem for fu­ture de­liv­ery be­yond its cur­rent Great Western Main Line Padding­ton to Heathrow pro­gramme. This will fea­ture ETCS­con­trolled pas­sen­ger op­er­a­tions in 2019, to sup­port the in­cre­men­tal roll­out of Dig­i­tal Rail­way.

Al­stom is also the pri­mary con­trac­tor for con­ven­tional sig­nalling re­newals and en­hance­ments in a large num­ber of Network

Rail re­gions, and was re­spon­si­ble for in­tro­duc­ing Al­stom’s Smart­lock in­ter­lock­ing to the UK.

Smart­lock, as a dig­i­tal rail-ready com­puter-based in­ter­lock­ing (CBI), al­ready boasts na­tive in­ter­faces to ETCS and TMS and can form the heart of a modern dig­i­tal rail sig­nalling sys­tem.

This next gen­er­a­tion CBI is a suc­ces­sor to the UK’s cur­rent sys­tem of Solid State

We’re not just about de­liv­er­ing a stand­alone pack­age, we want to make sure we of­fer the ben­e­fits across long-term ser­vice, con­tin­ued main­te­nance and fi­nally its de­com­mis­sion­ing pe­riod. Neil War­bur­ton, Head of Sig­nalling En­gi­neer­ing, Al­stom UK & Ire­land

In­ter­lock­ing (SSI) first in­tro­duced by Bri­tish Rail in the 1980s. De­ployed pre­vi­ously to main­tain com­pat­i­bil­ity with SSI in­stal­la­tions, Smart­lock sup­ports the re­use of legacy SSI ge­o­graph­i­cal data and data links.

CBI sys­tems of this type utilise the track­side equip­ment as­so­ci­ated with SSI and links with points and sig­nals via TFMs ( Track­side Func­tion Mo­d­ules).

Smart­lock 400 is the lat­est ver­sion of this CBI tech­nol­ogy of­fered by Al­stom, which is also re­ferred to within the com­pany as Smart IO. It has been in­stalled in Italy, Den­mark, Turkey and Ro­ma­nia, but is cur­rently un­der­go­ing a non-op­er­a­tional trial in the UK in or­der to demon­strate its value to Network Rail, and its mul­ti­ple ad­van­tages over the in­creas­ingly out­dated SSI sys­tem, such as faster and much higher ca­pac­ity data trans­fer and ac­qui­si­tion.

Al­stom’s in­ter­lock­ing plat­form man­ager Don Hay­ward ex­plains: “Smart IO is a new gen­er­a­tion of con­trol equip­ment that in­ter­faces be­tween our Smart­lock cen­tral in­ter­lock­ing, which is man­ag­ing train move­ments, and the track­side de­vices that con­trol those move­ments.

“TFMs haven’t changed much over the last 30 years, and are now legacy prod­ucts. But with Smart IO we are able to pro­vide new con­trollers for the points and sig­nals that are faster in op­er­a­tion, lower cost, eas­ier to main­tain and pro­vide bet­ter di­ag­nos­tics.

“Smart IO also re­places the way TFMs

com­mu­ni­cate via older style net­works with modern IP-based com­mu­ni­ca­tion over fi­bre-op­tic ca­bles. We’re hop­ing this will give us a sig­nif­i­cant re­li­a­bil­ity im­prove­ment on ex­ist­ing com­mu­ni­ca­tions ar­range­ments, and it falls into line with modern in­dus­try prac­tice.

“We’re cur­rently tri­alling it at Crewe Coal Yard, where we’ve put in a small in­stal­la­tion ad­ja­cent to the track as a pre­cur­sor to a first ser­vice de­ploy­ment, af­ter which we would hope to gain more gen­eral ap­proval for its wider use.”

Al­stom Head of Sig­nalling En­gi­neer­ing Neil War­bur­ton re­in­forces the claim that Smart­lock 400 would bring in­stant ben­e­fits to the network, in­clud­ing a re­duc­tion in points fail­ures, more re­li­able data trans­fer, greater re­silience to the ef­fects of trac­tion and a re­duc­tion in main­te­nance costs across the en­tire life­cy­cle of the as­sets. This will of­fer greater value for money in the long run, he stresses, than opt­ing for lower cost or less modern sig­nalling tech­nol­ogy pro­vided by al­ter­na­tive sup­pli­ers.

Through its abil­ity to con­tinue to use ex­ist­ing SSI TFM in­stal­la­tions, Smart­lock 400 also of­fers a lower-cost al­ter­na­tive to a com­plete sys­tem re­place­ment.

War­bur­ton says: “It’s not re­ally a case of de­liv­er­ing projects cheaply, it is mak­ing sure we get the ben­e­fits across the whole life­cy­cle of the prod­uct, while of­fer­ing NR sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved di­ag­nos­tics. We’re not just about de­liv­er­ing a stand­alone pack­age, we want to make sure we of­fer the ben­e­fits across long-term ser­vice, con­tin­ued main­te­nance and then, fi­nally, its de­com­mis­sion­ing pe­riod.

“It’s also about us­ing a lot of the tech­nol­ogy that’s al­ready avail­able to us to de­liver im­proved ar­chi­tec­ture that re­ally ad­dresses some of the his­tor­i­cally weak points in the ex­ist­ing sig­nalling sys­tem in use to­day. Peo­ple will recog­nise points fail­ure and train de­tec­tion fail­ure as par­tic­u­lar is­sues, and we think they’re two of the things we have sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved.

“Pro­gress­ing through lab test­ing, we’re do­ing the non-op­er­a­tional trial at Crewe, and now we’re look­ing at the first live op­er­a­tional project, which will al­low us to start check­ing its lim­i­ta­tions.

“NR is as keen as we are to see this new tech­nol­ogy tri­alled, as it is very much part of their strat­egy for the fu­ture to move to

In­te­grat­ing into one joined-up en­tity brings other ben­e­fits to the cus­tomer, such as al­low­ing us to take more of the project risk. Ian Chap­man, Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment and Ten­der­ing Di­rec­tor, Al­stom UK & Ire­land

an IP-en­abled track­side com­mu­ni­ca­tions struc­ture, which our network would bring. “

Hay­ward adds: “We’re try­ing to keep the best of what we had pre­vi­ously with the TFMs, but in ad­di­tion to that we’re try­ing to make the sys­tem more com­pact, lower cost and faster. Over­all, we want to bring the cost of de­ploy­ment down and push the speed of de­ploy­ment up, so we can do more schemes.”

As well as pos­sess­ing an im­pres­sive ar­moury of in­tel­li­gent tech­no­log­i­cal so­lu­tions, Al­stom is also re­struc­tur­ing its op­er­a­tions in the UK to im­prove its cus­tomer of­fer­ing. Al­stom sig­nalling (which was a 50/ 50 joint ven­ture with Bal­four Beatty un­til it was wholly ac­quired by Al­stom in May 2015) is there­fore be­ing fully merged with its par­ent com­pany, so that clients can ben­e­fit from a whole sys­tem ap­proach. The in­ten­tion is for Al­stom to bring more of its ex­per­tise to bear on ma­jor projects, rather than spe­cial­is­ing in de­liv­er­ing in­di­vid­ual as­pects, such as sig­nalling or elec­tri­fi­ca­tion, as part of a wider joint ven­ture.

This means that clients who cur­rently turn to the com­pany for its skills and prod­ucts in one area, for ex­am­ple ETCS or Smart­lock 400, could also ben­e­fit from its wider port­fo­lio of in­no­va­tions in in­fra­struc­ture de­liv­ery, such as its au­to­matic track lay­ing so­lu­tion Ap­pi­track, its high-out­put wiring train, or He­sop en­ergy re­cov­ery sys­tem (see sep­a­rate pan­els).

Al­stom UK & Ire­land Busi­ness De­vel­op­ment and Ten­der­ing Di­rec­tor Ian Chap­man ex­plains: “The UK is cur­rently a pi­lot for the merger of Al­stom’s sig­nalling and in­fra­struc­ture busi­nesses. On a global level, Al­stom is look­ing at what we’re do­ing and is quite likely to fol­low suit.

“It’s quite a change in cul­ture and de­liv­ery, but we’re start­ing to think more widely in the work we do. For fu­ture projects, we’re look­ing at pro­vid­ing the whole sys­tems pack­age, in­clud­ing sig­nalling and ETCS, tun­nel sys­tems, evac­u­a­tion sys­tems, over­head wires and track. We can put that to­gether with our ex­pe­ri­ence of de­liv­er­ing Cross­rail (as part of ATC) to form a joint sys­tems pack­age that we will de­liver our­selves.

“In­te­grat­ing into one joined-up en­tity brings other ben­e­fits to the cus­tomer, such as al­low­ing us to take more of the project risk, and de­liv­er­ing the whole sys­tem works as one to de­liver out­puts the client wants. But that re­quires clients to change how they spec­ify work, and move from an in­di­vid­ual el­e­ment ba­sis to­wards an out­put spec­i­fi­ca­tion, which we can pro­vide for them.”

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