The Challenge of Interoperable Services

June 10, 2019

New rail locomotives need not only to be more efficient and greener, but also to be more reliable with greater interoperability. That means facing big challenges.

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The liberalisation of rail transportation in Europe, which started in the 1990s, has changed the railway market. The flow of goods is moving more quickly over ever greater distances. Most freight traffic in Europe is now cross-border, so in order to provide a competitive advantage, locomotive manufacturers must overcome a major issue: interoperable services.

This means that new rail locomotives need to be more efficient and greener whilst also being more reliable and interoperable. The interoperability between trains and the different infrastructures present several challenges:

Political and Economic Challenges

The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) enhances cross-border inter-operability by creating a single Europe-wide standard for train control and command systems. However, even with the European Union looking to harmonise things, national entities are not always willing to enforce necessary interoperability for many reasons - for example, the prohibitive costs of changing their infrastructure to achieve only the same level of safety.

Safety and Certification

Cross-border interoperability demands add pressure on manufacturers of locomotives who have to meet an increasing number of new statutory requirements, as well as new standards and directives created by the European Union. Also, increasing use of software, high-levels of system integration and new requirements for connectivity all present a significant challenge for meeting safety and certification requirements.

Technical Challenges

Cross-border demands mean that manufacturers must support different catenary voltages (15kV AC, 25kV AC, 3kV DC and 1.5kV DC), different types of pantographs, different train radio systems and different loading gauges, to name just a few of the many diverse national requirements.

In addition, one of the most difficult challenges facing interoperability is the automatic train protection (ATP) systems. These safety systems have a high safety-integrity level and are responsible for the protection of persons and goods. One of the main challenges in implementing support for these systems is the diversity and quantity of systems required for cross-border operations.

Since each country has usually adopted a bespoke automatic train protection systems, locomotives and other rolling stock are required to integrate multiple train protection technologies and antennas, allowing them to work in different borders. For example, during operation in the DACHINL region alone, a locomotive is required to be equipped with more than twenty different antennas.

Meeting all the demands of interoperable services is not easy, especially for locomotive manufacturers. If correct methods are applied during the development lifecycle, and the safety-integrity level is maintained, costs and time to market of the final product can be reduced.

Critical Software has been helping organisations to answer these challenges through novel methods. If you would like to learn more, download our free white paper “Advanced Engineering for Railway Rolling Stock”.