Alstom scoops €100m Egyptian signalling deal

Alstom is to upgrade signalling on Egyptian National Railways’ 240km Beni Suef-Asyut line in a €100 million contract which includes a five-year maintenance element. Delivery will start in 2016 with completion of installation works due in January 2019.

Alstom will install Smartlock electronic interlockings to replace the existing electromechanical devices, in addition to trackside equipment, power supplies and telecommunications. The installation is expected to increase line capacity by more than 80%.

Egyptian National Railways plans to upgrade signalling across its network and improve safety to what Alstom describes as ‘international standards’.

Making the case for signalling upgrades has been doing a lot of travelling over the past week on the outlying stretch of a key main line in Europe, and despite this being a busy route there are still quite a few legacy mechanical signalling systems on it.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this – the systems are reliable in the main and do the job they were designed to – but it does raise the question: is the signalling sector making a coherent case for the replacement of mechanical signalling?

We ask because on the face of it making a business case for replacing such systems could be rather harder than it appears – other than the staff costs and routine maintenance, these legacy systems don’t cost all that much to retain, whereas inevitably installation of modern intelligent signalling systems will be expensive in the first cost.

Some pointers – ERTMS et al can allow the existing signalling sections (which were in the main designed for trains with much slower braking and acceleration) to be recast for modern traffic, increasing capacity and potentially speeds. They are also likely to be more reliable in the long term, and of course they offer safety benefits.

Are we really pushing as hard as we should be for change on these sorts of routes? What can we do better to make the case? is interested to hear your thoughts…