THE French government’s Agency for Ecological Transition (Ademe) has entered contract negotiations with the New Economical Railway Signalling (NS2F) consortium that is developing digital technology to cut investment and operating costs on rural routes by 30%.

NS2F is led by Thales and also comprises Geosat, Setec Ferroviaire, Clearsy and the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region.

Ademe is responsible for administering a €7.16m grant  awarded to NS2F under the government’s France 2030 programme. This programme is making a total of €54bn available for innovation projects aiming to sustainably transform key sectors of the economy and position France as a world leader.

NS2F is working with French National Railways (SNCF) on the Innovative Light Train project, which aims to revitalise 12,000km of rural routes which due to their advanced state of obsolescence are, according to Thales, “neither economically viable to operate nor appealing to passengers.”

The Innovative Light Train concept would see new lightweight rolling stock being developed by CAF operate under satellite-based digital signalling to reduce the amount of lineside equipment needed and the associated maintenance costs.

Innovative Light Train was one of the five projects aiming to reduce rolling stock and infrastructure investment and operating costs that were selected to receive government funding by Ademe in March.

Thales says that NS2F will be fully interoperable with the core network and will improve safety, particularly at level crossings.

The NS2F consortium aims to complete the project in three years, drawing on nine innovative systems and technologies.

Thales will develop platform-agnostic, autonomous train detection and odometry without lineside equipment, as well as cyber-secure data transmission via public telecommunications networks. It will also be responsible for efficient signalling systems and centralised line supervision, and with the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region, will work on integrated level crossing monitoring systems.

Geosat will contribute its expertise in high-density digital terrain mapping, while Clearsy and Thales are to work on formal methods of generating safety data.

Setec Ferroviaire and Thales will develop a tablet-based supervision and operation interface for the driver. Geosat, Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Thales will collaborate on infrastructure monitoring using vehicle-mounted sensors.

“We are delighted to officially get the ball rolling with our partners,” says Mr Amaury Jourdan, chief technical officer at Thales Ground Transportation Systems. “The innovative systems we are developing together will revitalise France’s low-density rail lines and put us at the cutting edge of technology globally.”