August 29, 2014

British ERTMS testing in full swing

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With ERTMS set to be rolled out on some of Britain's busiest main lines over the next five years, testing and validation is now well underway in preparation for large-scale deployment. Keith Barrow visits Network Rail's ETCS National Integration Facility to see how the infrastructure manager is preparing for the transition.

APRIL 1 was an important date for Britain's railways, marking the start of Network Rail's 2014-2019 funding period (Control Period 5), which will see a £13bn investment in the modernisation of infrastructure to increase capacity, improve reliability, and make the network more efficient.

ERTMS will play an important role in meeting all three of these objectives, and is therefore at the heart of NR's investment plans in CP5 with the first full-scale main line deployments, and further rollouts are anticipated in 2020-2024. The ERTMS rollout is part of NR's National Operating Strategy (NOS), which also includes the migration of signalling control to 14 regional Route Operating Centres (ROCs), a move which is expected to generate efficiencies of £1.59bn by the time the programme is fully implemented in 2029.

Network Rail's ERTMS deployment plan, described in detail in the October 2013 issue of IRJ will initially see the system deployed on the Great Western Main Line (GWML) from London to Bristol and Cardiff, which will be equipped with ETCS Level 2 as an overlay on the existing Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS), and on the southern section of the East Coast Main Line (ECML) between London and Doncaster, where ETCS Level 2 will operate without lineside signals. ERTMS will also be installed on the north-south Thameslink route across London with ATO on the central section.

Following an early deployment scheme on the Cambrian network in Wales, which was launched in 2010, NR commissioned its ETCS National Integration Facility (Enif) last year to prepare for the rollout of ETCS on some of Britain's busiest lines. Enif comprises three elements: a test track, utilising an 8km section of the Hertford Loop suburban line north of London, a test train converted from a class 313 EMU and a purpose-built laboratory facility located in the nearby town of Hitchin. The main purpose of Enif is to validate the compatibility of equipment from NR's four framework suppliers:

• Ansaldo STS

• Infrasig, a joint venture of Bombardier and Carillion

• Siemens Rail Automation, and

• Signalling Solutions (SSL), a joint venture of Alstom and Balfour Beatty.

Each of the four suppliers has installed a test interlocking, a Radio Block Centre (RBC) and control equipment in their laboratories at Enif. The suppliers are each allocated testing slots on the test train to demonstrate system compliance and carry out supplier-specific tests. Testing began in August 2013 and the programme is due to conclude in October 2014.

The simulations being carried out in the Enif laboratories will define operational rules for the use of ETCS on the British mainline network.

"The work being done at Enif is part of the section for the national ERTMS framework process and it plays a key role in helping us to manage the risks and costs of deployment," explains NR's Enif manager Mr Mike Essex. "We're not evaluating traffic management systems as we felt this would add another level of complexity we didn't need. We also didn't want to give suppliers a standard TMS interface."

SRS Baseline 2 (version 2.3.0d) is being used during testing, although NR hopes to use Baseline 3 for main line deployments. Two of the laboratories operate without lineside signalling, while the other two retain this function.

enifVerification and validation is being implemented in a seven-stage process. Following validation of system components by the supplier, system integration testing and operational validation takes place a dedicated static laboratory at Enif. This is followed by live trials on the test track, before the first mainline proving runs take place under a possession. When system proving is complete, the process moves to trial main line operation and finally timetable proving, before the system can enter commercial use.

NR says this reduces implementation risk because all software is initially tested in the static laboratory and all dynamic testing starts on the Enif test track. Testing will only move onto the core main line network for sign-off tests and geographically-specific adjustments that cannot be carried out at Enif.

NR gave the four suppliers an operating concept and asked them to model the operation of the system on two busy lines: the London Paddington - Heathrow Airport stretch of the GWML and London King's Cross - Wood Green on the ECML.

Infrasig's installation is based on Bombardier's EbiLock interlocking. The joint venture completed its demonstration on the test track last year and its lab demonstration in June this year. The next step will be to test RBC-to-RBC integration with Siemens this summer, and Infrasig will also test a Level 3 application later this year. The demonstrator is based on a solution supplied by Bombardier to Kazakhstan Railways (KTZ), which Infrasig's Mr Paul Foulkes describes as "true moving block."

SSL is using an Alstom Smartlock 400 interlocking with conventional route setting. Ansaldo STS is using its own SEI interlocking and RBC in a set-up based on the installation it supplied to NR for the Cambrian network.

The Siemens installation is built around a Westlock interlocking and has conventional route setting. The system will be used for testing ETCS with an ATO overlay for Thameslink.

"This is a useful opportunity for the suppliers to see how their systems work on the railway," says Mr Ewan Spencer from the Siemens team. "When we set our systems up here we had ETCS working on the train within a week, which gives some indication of how far the technology has come. We don't see any fundamental issues preventing trains and RBCs working together properly."

The test train used at Enif is a modified class 313 suburban EMU, which dates from the 1970s. The train has been overhauled and equipped with Alstom onboard ETCS equipment and Alstom Driver-Machine Interface (DMI) units in the cabs. Passenger seating was removed and two test areas were installed for ETCS and packet switching (GPRS) testing.

Four crossovers were installed to enable bidirectional working and allow NR to switch out the test section. When the track is required for testing, control passes from the signalling centre at King's Cross to Enif. NR says it can hand control back for normal service

to resume in less than 30 minutes. The test track has limitations in that it can only be used between the end of the morning peak and start of evening peak, it has no junctions, and the line speed is only 70km/h. Nonetheless, it is possible to simulate complex operating scenarios such as shunting and splitting/joining of trains.

"We have to demonstrate these systems at Enif to ensure they work generally and to satisfy ourselves that we can apply them with confidence on the network," says Mr Andrew Simmons, NOS technical programme director for NR. "We're using all the information from the Cambrian project, what's happening elsewhere in Europe, and feedback from our own routes [NR regions] to come up with a reference design. We're not producing a British version of ERTMS here - we need to take as much as we possibly can from what is commercially available."

In addition to validation of suppliers' ETCS equipment, Enif is playing an important role in developing the future telecommunications infrastructure for ERTMS. Currently NR uses 2G circuit switching on GSM-R which is adequate for existing voice communications, but this lacks the capacity to handle large numbers of trains running on ETCS. NR is therefore looking to move to packet switching (GPRS) and specifications are currently being developed for this.

The Enif test train was specially adapted as a testbed for European packet switching research on behalf of the ERTMS User Group, and is being used for proof-of-concept trials for GPRS and cyber-security testing. The train is equipped with GPRS equipment supplied by Alstom, Funkwerk, Siemens, and Selex.

ATO over ETCS

The Thameslink Programme encompasses some of Britain's most challenging resignalling schemes and it will also pioneer the use of ETCS with an ATO overlay, which will enable the operation of 24 trains per hour on the core section through central London. Because Thameslink is a busy operational railway, access to the route for testing is extremely limited and Enif therefore plays a vital role in testing and validation.

"Enif was really conceived as a Thameslink project, and it allows us to accurately replicate the Thameslink core infrastructure," says Mr Paul Bates, project director, high-capacity infrastructure for the Thameslink Programme. "We needed a facility to test the interaction between the train and lineside equipment, but we would only get around three hours a night to do that on the core section of Thameslink. At Enif we could work on the line for up to 16 hours a day if we needed to, although that is unlikely because up to 90% of the testing we need to do will take place in the lab at Hitchin."

In November Enif will be handed over to the Thameslink Programme and test operation using the new purpose-built Siemens class 700 trains for Thameslink will commence at the facility in February 2016. ETCS/ATO is due to be fully operational on the core section of Thameslink by mid-2018.

The ETCS Level 2 overlay on the Paddington - Heathrow Airport section of the GWML is due to be completed by April 2017, enabling services on the new Crossrail east-west link across London to operate on ETCS. The Level 2 overlay will be rolled out over the remainder of the line to Bristol by 2019, and lineside signalling will be removed by 2025.

On the ECML, the ETCS Level 2 overlay will be installed between King's Cross and Wood Green by 2018, with removal of lineside signalling scheduled for 2020. Full implementation as far as Doncaster is due to be completed in 2020.

Because the Enif test track is only available to NR for a limited period, ERTMS testing will continue at other locations, such as the Old Dalby test track near Nottingham, where first-in-class testing of onboard equipment will be carried out. This facility is currently being equipped with GSM-R in preparation for the start of ERTMS testing. A key advantage of Old Dalby is that trains can be tested at up to 180km/h.

NR says the development work being carried out at Enif and other locations will feed into the EU-funded Next Generation Train Control (NGTC) project, which aims to pave the way for standardised train control systems for main line and urban networks offering complete ATP, ATO and ATS functionality from Grade of Operation GOA0 to GOA4, while significantly reducing operating and life-cycle costs. The three-year project has a budget of €11m and is due to be completed in September 2016.

"NR and other infrastructure managers are working together to specify exactly what they want in this new system," Simmons says. "CBTC/ETCS have about 80% commonality in terms of software and the industry is trying to get both systems to the same point. NGTC is an important step towards defining what that will look like."

Onboard equipment

THE rollout of ERTMS on Thameslink, the GWML and the ECML coincides with the introduction of two new train fleets, the Siemens class 700 Desiro City suburban EMU and the Hitachi class 800/801 Super Express Train (SET), which in many ways makes the rollout of ERTMS a simpler affair for the infrastructure manager, the fleet owners, and the train operators. But even with the delivery of a significant number of new trains, a variety of older types will still need to be retrofitted with ETCS and this is one of the major challenges facing the deployment.

As NR, the train operators, and the rolling stock owners discovered during the Cambrian early deployment, retrofitting is a complicated and costly business. Retrofitting programmes may therefore be implemented when franchises come up for renewal as it can be written into the franchise specification as a requirement if new vehicles are not stipulated.

Fortunately the Department for Transport's revised franchising timetable works in NR's favour because it allows the fitment of ETCS to be embedded in new franchises. "The only problem is that franchise bidders will all be sending out enquiries to ETCS suppliers, who will be swamped with requests for quotes," Bates says. "Each operator will only have a relatively small fleet, so how does the industry get the best possible price for onboard equipment?"

Pricing is therefore being co-ordinated on a national basis. NR has tasked a team of engineers from the rolling stock leasing companies to obtain prices from suppliers on a fleet-by-fleet basis, together with costing the first-in-class pilot fitment programme. This has been structured in a way that allows a franchisee to take control of the procurement process if necessary. Tendering is already underway for the first-in-class programme for passenger rolling stock.

NR is also working with freight operators, and it estimates a fleet of around 850 freight locomotives will need to be fitted with ETCS. NR is responsible for funding onboard equipment for freight locomotives and will go out to tender later this year for a fleet-wide contract with the aim of completing the programme by 2022. NR will also fund driver training.

A tender will be launched early next year to equip 240 NR infrastructure maintenance vehicles and 100 leased track maintenance vehicles.

Another issue NR is currently working on is accommodating historic locomotives, which are important to the charter market, on ETCS-equipped lines. A list of vehicles is currently being drawn up and NR is consulting with owning groups to establish the best options for addressing the issue.

NR says it expects first-in-class installation to take around 18 months with the train being out of service for 12-16 weeks. Fleet fitment is anticipated to take around two weeks per vehicle.

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