March 01, 2018

Italian Rail Network chases three-minute headways with ETCS High Density

Written by  Maurizio Gentile
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Italy has bold plans to update its key signalling infrastructure with some of the latest available technology, including high-density ETCS and Ersat EAV satellite signalling. Maurizio Gentile, CEO of Italian Rail Network (RFI), provides an update on progress so far.

ETCS High Density represents a new frontier for RFI for regional and commuter transport in the large urban areas near the main Italian cities. This system - representing the first application in Europe - will improve the fluidity of rail traffic and increase capacity three-fold in the large urban nodes while guaranteeing and increasing necessary safety standards.

Rail traffic will be managed in terms of the position and speed of the trains. Block sections of track about 1350m long, that at present can only be occupied by a single train, will in the future be able to be used by up to four trains that will travel safely while 350m apart. This will be possible thanks to the creation of virtual micro-segments that will not require devices to be installed on the ground to detect the end of trains.

GentileMaurizioThe project presents many challenges. One of these is the system to detect the end of trains as it needs to recognise different types of rolling stock, made by different suppliers. At present we have launched the first applications on Trenitalia rolling stock. Another challenge is the integration with GPRS and the introduction of Automatic Train Operation that will be added to the SCMT discontinuous cab signalling system used in Italy.

By June 2018 we will assign contracts to install ERTMS/ ETCS High Density on lines in the urban nodes of Milan, Florence and Rome.

In its first phase, the project aims to cover approximately 50km of main lines in each of the urban nodes of Milan, Florence and Rome. Later the system will be extended to the other main nodes in Italy, namely Naples, Turin, Bologna and Genoa.

The total financial investment made by RFI for the first phase of the project is approximately €100m, in addition to the huge involvement of our staff in terms of research, trials and innovation, and we aim to have the first high-density lines in operation between 2020 and 2021.

Innovations

We have two signalling initiatives underway for use on secondary and low-traffic lines. Testing of the new ETCS Level 3 Regional signalling system started in November between Avezzano and Civitella Roveto using a Trenitalia Aln668 train and has already achieved positive results in this first phase which was completed in January.

ERTMS Regional aims to reduce maintenance and management costs on secondary lines as well as offering the possibility to increase capacity. Traditional train detection systems and lineside signals are replaced by a radio communication system which optimises the so-called ground/train dialogue to locate trains in real time.

Ersat EAV is a truly innovative system for secondary low-traffic conventional lines. For the first time in Europe it will be possible to interface and integrate ERTMS with the Galileo satellite navigation and positioning technology.

The first phase of the trials has been completed and at present we are waiting for the results of the risk management certification process from the European Union Agency for Railways (ERA), the European Space Agency (ESA), the Italian Space Agency (ASI), the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA) and the National Railways Safety Agency (ANSF). Once it is approved, the project will be extended to the European network and secondary, urban and suburban railways.

RFI and DB Networks, in collaboration with Trenitalia, Asstra and Ansaldo STS are trialling the system on the Cagliari - San Gavino line in Sardinia, while the Pinerolo - Sangone line in Piedmont will be the first line to have the Ersat EAV system installed.

The strength of the Ersat EAV system is that it combines the potential of ERTMS and Galileo, integrating them with the Global Navigation Satellite System.

Ersat EAV receives information on tracking the position and speed of trains via satellite, while ERTMS supervises the traffic. In this way data and information - the ground/train dialogue - are transmitted to devices installed on board the trains by radio bases positioned every 7km, instead of by the balises currently in use and installed every 1.3km along the track.

Ersat will boost capacity as it will increase the number of trains that can safely travel along the controlled section. It will also help to reduce installation, management and maintenance costs. Ersat could eventually be installed on nearly 45% of the secondary conventional network, replacing the current safety systems, and on a significant part of the European network.

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