Big signalling deals in Spain and Morocco

Major new signalling contracts have been signed this week, marking a real breakthrough for Spain’s CAF Signalling and the introduction of GSM-R to Morocco.

In Spain, a CAF Signalling led consortium is to install European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) Level 2 and Spanish ASFA signalling on the Tarragona to Vandellos part of the Mediterranean Corridor and the connection with the Madrid-Barcelona-Perpignan high-speed line. The contract is worth €98.6 million and also sees fixed telecommunications, centralised traffic control and other safety systems installed. A 20-year maintenance deal is also part of the contract.

In Morocco, meanwhile, state operator ONCF is about to start rolling out GSM-R with the award of a €30 million contract to a consortium of Thales, Huawei, and Italian company Imet. The consortium will install GSM-R on five routes with a combined length of 712km. The under construction Tangiers to Kenitra high-speed route is included within this.

Thales will manage the project, Huawei will provide its GSM-R and networking equipment and Imet is responsible for site design and construction.

Alstom-Bombardier-Indra consortium wins Spanish HSR signalling contract

Spanish track authority ADIF has awarded a €410 million contract to supply and maintain European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) Level 2 signalling on the new North-West high-speed line to a consortium of Alstom, Bombardier and Indra.

The contract, whose maintenance element lasts for 20 years, covers the 310km of new high-speed railway from Valladolid to Leon, and Venta de Banos to Burgos. The consortium is responsible for design, procurement, installation and commissioning of the signalling, fixed and GSM-R telecommunications, Automatic Train Protection, centralised traffic control, security, and infrastructure for trains and mobile telephone operators.

It will be Spain’s second ERTMS Level 2 installation without ERTMS Level 1 backup, which Alstom claims offers a ‘significant reduction in the initial cost of civil works’.

Signalling and train control take centre stage at MetroRail 2014


The latest projects, developments and challenges in metro signalling and train control are set to take centre stage at MetroRail Europe 2014 next week in London, with rail industry professionals from around the world expected to attend.

The topics being covered range from the challenges of developing, commissioning, expanding and operating metro networks in cities including Paris, London, Jeddah. Toronto and Honolulu, to the latest developments in braking energy recovery, Communications Based Train control and communications technologies.

Some rather different parts of the conference include a ‘Dragon’s Den’ (named after a popular television series) discussion where rail professionals developing new technologies can present them to a table of high-profile rail bosses for their evaluation, what promises to be an intriguing debate on which communications standard (GSM-R, LTE, Tetra or Wimax) offers the most potential for metro networks, and a range of technical tours around some of London’s most important installations and projects.

Speakers include Transport for London Director of Rail Jonathan Fox, RATP Chairman and CEO Pierre Mongin, Siemens Product Lifecycle Manager Markus Dorn, and MTR CEO of European Business Jeremy Long – with many more high-profile names on the list.

An exhibition runs alongside the conference programme, with the biggest and most important suppliers in the metro sector attending, including Alstom, Bombardier, Siemens, Thales, Kapsch, and Hitachi, all showcasing some of their latest developments.

If you haven’t booked a space already, this looks like a really good conference and exhibition – and with such high profile speakers and exhibitors, it offers compelling proof that the metro sector is thriving.



Bombardier consortium wins Zambian ERTMS contract

A consortium of Bombardier, Huawei and GMC Technologies (Zambia) is to install ERTMS Regional – a low cost version of ERTMS designed for low density routes – on Zambia’s 1,000km, 1,067mm gauge mixed traffic line from Livingstone to Chingola.

Bombardier is supplying Interflo 550 interlockings for the route, while Huawei is installing the GSM-R equipment. GMC Technologies will join more than 30 other local companies to upgrade the route with double track and linespeed increases to 80km/h over half the total route length.

The contract is another ERTMS success in Africa for Bombardier, which is also installing ERTMS Level 1 on Algeria’s 140km Saida-Moulay Slissen and 15 km Saida-Tiaret routes.

Poland opts for Thales ETCS solution

A Thales led consortium has scooped a €100million contract by Polish National Railways (PKP) to supply and install European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) equipment on two sections of the Warsaw-Lodz route with a combined length of 125km.

Line speeds will be increased to 160km/h for passenger and 120km/h for freight trains, enhancing capacity and cutting journey times in line with other ERTMS installations in Poland.

The consortium will also build a local control centre at Skierniewice as part of Poland’s ongoing network modernisation. It marks the fourth ERTMS/ETCS contract for Thales, which has installed the system on 700km of the Polish network.

4G or not 4G – is LTE technology the future of signalling?

The Global System for Mobile Communications – Railways, better known as GSM-R, is a cornerstone of European Rail Traffic Management System technology, providing the means for voice and data communications between operational staff and control centres, but could there be a future role for the latest mobile communications technology, Long Term Evolution, or LTE for short?

Although GSM-R is able to handle the relatively limited volumes of data demanded by current signalling systems, the much greater data capacity of LTE (up to 75Mbits/second uplink) offers potential the rail industry will find hard to ignore. With, potentially, the ability to stream much larger volumes of data, a host of applications could emerge. One of the obvious ones is for passengers, where with suitable sensors embedded in seats and a suitable application on a smartphone, a train could direct passengers to unoccupied seats before the train even arrives at a station.

From a ticketing point of view too, on long distance services, trains could relay data about train occupancy to fares management systems and adjust ticket prices for those travelling on the day to encourage them to use more lightly used services.

But it’s from a signalling point of view that LTE may just offer the most exciting potential. The potential for Internet Protocol (IP) based radio is well understood, with second generation mobile data technology GPRS likely to be deployed in the next two or three years. The logical development of that is to use LTE to expand the potential further, essentially allowing the railway to use a single communications standard for all purposes. By the mid 2020s, it LTE could well be the de facto standard. How much more capable could ERTMS, PTC and CBTC systems be with a much greater data capacity?

At the moment it’s the potential granted by the extra data capacity of LTE which is the most exciting aspect. It’s impossible to say at this early stage what the addtional applications beyond train control, onboard diagnostics and voice communications will be developed – but at InnoTrans this September it may just be worth paying a lot more attention to providers of LTE technology for a glimpse into the future.

If you have any thoughts on the potential of LTE, please let us know via the comments form.

Ansaldo and Kapsch win MENA GSMR and ETCS signalling contracts

After a fairly quiet month in terms of signalling news, Ansaldo and Kapsch have won signalling and GSM-R contracts in the Middle East and North Africa.

Our friends at International Railway Journal report that Kapsch Carriercom has won the deal to install GSM-R on Saudi Arabia’s 450km Haramain line between Mecca, Jeddah and Medina. The value of the contract is undisclosed but Kapsch is set to install a fourfold system so that if any three base stations in an area fail the fourth will continue to allow traffic to run. The European Train Control System (ETCS) on the route itself is being supplied by Siemens following its recent acquisition of Invensys Rail.

Meanwhile, in Algeria, Ansaldo Systems is to supply ETCS signalling on the 130km railway being built between Oued Tielat and Tlemcen. With an expected linespeed of 220km/h, the mixed traffic railway – being built by an Italian consortium – is expected to take 30 months to build.

And finally, Siemens is acquiring Sky Eye Transportation Systems and SONA BLW Prazisionsschmiede GmbH as it develops its rail automation business. Sky Eye develops planning and dispatch software and will be integrated into Siemens’ Rail IT operation. SONA BLW makes hydraulic retarders and control systems for freight operations, and will form part of the new Freight & Products Business Segment at Siemens Rail Automation.


Siemens wins Crossrail control and comms contract

Siemens will supply the operational control and communications systems for the 21km long tunnels and nine new central stations of London’s Crossrail project in a £43 million contract.

The scheme will link suburban routes to the east and west of London, providing more effective travel across the London for an estimated 750,000 daily commuters. For the route’s central section, control room and selected stations, Siemens will provide  integrated station management, line management, security and information systems and SCADA systems.

Siemens will also provide multiple communications technologies including Data Net-work/Optical Fibre Network, Private Mobile Radio (PMR) Radiating Infrastructure, GSM-R/Airwave/LFEPA Ch5 Radio Systems and Public Cellular Radio Radiating Infrastructure.



An artist’s impression of Tottenham Court Road station on London’s Crossrail project.

DB opts for first ever ERTMS Level 2 installation

Deutsche Bahn’s first ever installation of European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) Level 2 is set to take place on the new 230km line from Ebensfeld via Erfurt to Halle and Leipzig in a contract worth EUR 93 million.

Siemens is equipping the route with interlockings and automatic train protection systems, while Kapsch is supplying the GSM-R system for communication between the radio block centre and the trains. The project will be commissioned in two phases between 2015 and 2017.

The route is part of German Unity Transport Project No. 8 (VDE8) which also includes the high-speed line from Nuremburg to Berlin – itself part of the Trans European Transport Network from Scandinavia to Italy.

The Froschgrundsee Viaduct is one of the signature structures on the new Ebensfeld-Erfurt railway, which will be Germany’s first ERTMS Level 2 installation. Its span is 270m. Credit: Deutsche Bahn AG/Frank Kniestedt.