Signalling trends for InnoTrans 2014


August usually sees the rail industry go fairly quiet in terms of new announcements, but every two years the apparrent lack of activity is deceiving because companies around the world are busy gearing up for InnoTrans, which takes place as usual at Messe Berlin, this year on September 23-26.

Of course, for the signalling and train control exhibitors are of most interest, and while we await final confirmation of what the major players will be exhibiting, we can infer quite a lot from recent trends in the industry.

First of all, expect an even greater focus on European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) and European Train Control System (ETCS) solutions from suppliers around the world. With installations outside Europe – in North Africa, the Middle East, Australasia and elsewhere it is becoming a genuinely global signalling system that’s unsurprisingly attracting the attention of the world’s major manufacturers.

Its North American stablemate, Positive Train Control, is also finding favour outside the USA and Canada, and for long-distance heavy-haul railways in particular it offers an increasingly attractive way of increasing route capacity and improving safety where interoperability is less of a concern.

The growing metro sector is enjoying a boom, driven in large part by the increasing availablity and efficiency of Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) options, and development is rapid here, helped by intense competition and rapidly evolving technology.

Improvements to conventional signalling will not be forgotten either – better and more efficient interlockings and train detection systems are likely to form a major aspect of companies’ exhibits, as will the latest developments in lineside signals and allied technology such as level crossing systems.

We’ll be previewing the exhibition in more detail closer to the event – but what do you think will be the standout trends at this year’s show? Let us know via the contact form…

Can we really beat the weather?

At Dawlish, South West UK, 30m of track has been washed away by high tides and storms. Credit: Network Rail

At Dawlish, South West UK, 30m of track has been washed away by high tides and storms. Credit: Network Rail

As I write this, large parts of the UK rail network are suffering serious disruption from the weather. Tracks have been washed away (see above), services cut and with high winds adding to record rainfall, the country’s 25kV electrified lines are now set to bear the brunt of the conditions.

Engineers across the UK are working around the clock to repair the damage, but could more have been done to make the infrastructure more resilient? At Dawlish it seems unlikely that any engineering could have prevented the damage, but there’s more to it than the tracks. Signalling cables are being cut and lineside cabinets inundated with water: after the tracks have been repaired there will still be a requirement to ensure the signalling is safe.

So what are the options? Clearly radio based signalling with no lineside infrastructure offers the chance to limit the potential damage, but as we discussed recently there are fundamental problems to resolve before this becomes the norm. In the meantime, is there any way that lineside infrastructure and cabling can be made more weather resistant to allow services to run more quickly when the weather clears? And, with incidents of extreme weather increasing all over the world, is there now a business case for doing so?

One thing is for sure: if the forecasters are correct and we are set for more extended periods of bad weather, the rail industry faces a major challenge in upgrading its infrastructure to cope.

Signalling professionals gather in Vienna


The Fourth Annual Signalling and Train Control conference starts at the Hilton Vienna today, promising three days of debate and discussion on the biggest issues affecting the railway signalling industry.

Today sees two workshops take place ahead of the main discussions which start on March 20. The first workshop is called ‘Cost Effective Development of Interlockings and ERTMS’ and covers case studies on Stockholm Metro and RATP, with discussions on increased capacity in delivery of signalling systems, meeting SENELEC SIL 4 requirements, and the transition from ‘tribal knowledge’ to formal specification.

The second workshop is led by Alexandre Girandi, Head of Railway Certification Department at Multitel. His opening presentation will be ‘Meeting Certification Requirements on time and on budget’, followed by an open debate and discussion covering ensuring cross-acceptance and interoperability, conformity with both TSIs and national rules, common safety methods and standardisation, guaranteeing effective validation and assessment strategies, and overcoming challenges and eradicating errors.

It looks like a strong start to a conference which is rapidly establishing itself as an important forum for signalling professionals – if you’re at the event, why not contact us and tell us what you think?

To follow the event, add @Global_TF to your Twitter feed.

UK minister supports Invensys Rail’s expansion

Norman Baker inspects a simulation of the new Victoria Line train control system on Invensys Rail´s stand at InnoTrans on September 19.

Companies like Invensys Rail are at the heart of the United Kingdom’s rapidly growing rail sector, said Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Transport Norman Baker on Invensys Rail’s stand at InnoTrans 2012 today.

Mr Baker was being shown the many successful UK companies exhibiting at the world’s biggest rail fair by the Director-General of the Railway Industry Association Jeremy Candfield. The minister’s remarks follow a remarkable period for Invensys Rail, which has recently secured export orders from Turkey worth GBP 176 million and Saudi Arabia to the value of GBP 260 million for the Makkah to Madinah high-speed rail project.

During his tour of the Invensys Rail stand, he saw a demonstration of the newly completed Victoria Line Control Centre, which played a critical role in transporting thousands of spectators and athletes to the London 2012 Games.

“The coalition government is very supportive of manufacturing and particularly supportive of the rail sector. It’s important for it to grow both for economic and environmental reasons, which is why we’re investing in the biggest rail enhancement programme since the 19th century,” he said.

Invensys Rail CEO Kevin Riddett added: “We are pleased that the minister made time in his busy schedule to see the Invensys rail stand and to recognise the export achievement of Invensys Rail and it’s track record of innovation and excellence, particularly in the field of intelligent railway signalling and train control.”

Rail market “set for growth”, says Bombardier

Despite the continuing global financial uncertainty, Bombardier says it is confident that the overall rail market will continue to grow.

Speaking at the company’s keynote press conference at InnoTrans, Bombardier President Andre Navarri said: “The trends for the rail market are strong. Road congestion is now driving rail growth, and… although obtaining finance is not getting easier given the demand we are confident a solution will be found.

The company believes that North America offers significant opportunities for growth, particularly in the light rail and inter-city passenger sectors. Major investment in capacity at its Plattsburgh, USA plant worth €20 million is set to consolidate Bombardier’s position in the rolling stock market.

In terms of signalling, Bombardier is promoting its Cityflo 650 solution, which is claimed to have the potential to increase metro capacity by up to 30%. Driverless monorail and metro systems are also becoming increasingly important, says Mr Navarri.

Intelligent Signalling – live @InnoTrans

The world’s biggest railway exhibition is opening today and will be reporting live from the Invensys Rail stand at InnoTrans (Hall 4.2, stand 205) on all the latest developments and news.

We’ll be updating twice a day at lunchtime and at the end of the day, and you can follow our live Twitter feed – #railsignals – for the latest updates.




Gearing up for InnoTrans

Crowds at InnoTrans 2010

InnoTrans 2012 is set to be the biggest and most spectacular rail exhibition yet.

With less than a week to go the whole world’s rail industry is gearing up for InnoTrans in Berlin, and signalling and train control are set to play a major part in the show.

As ERTMS/ETCS and Positive Train Control are now at a much greater level of technical maturity than even at 2010’s exhibition, it seems likely that the focus of signalling and train control suppliers will be on incremental improvements to existing product ranges, and on their mix of services. We can also expect progress on the latest and most challenging metro, conventional and high-speed rail projects to play a major part in company presentations.

As one would expect, the world’s major companies are there – including sponsor Invensys Rail – all showcasing their latest developments. A larger than ever array of Asian exhibitors will be there too, capitalising on the strong growth in rail services across the continent. will be blogging live from InnoTrans throughout the show to highlight the best in signalling technologies: keep abreast of developments via the webpage, or our twitter feed at railsignals.

More than just European…

A new train on Mexico City’s ERTMS equipped suburban line

European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) is increasingly becoming the signalling standard of choice for railways building new or upgrading existing routes across the world. This is even the case in North America, where Mexico City has installed ERTMS Level 1 on the Mexico City Suburban line.

Admittedly it’s a relatively small installation – but proof that even in North America, which is generally opting for the highly capable Positive Train Control system there is scope to reap the benefits of ERTMS.