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by rail engineers for rail engineers





Crossrail TBMs are being dismantled deep underground, having triumphantly completed their work.

ORR reflects on the viability of ERTMS in the UK - just one of 11 Signalling & Telecoms articles this month.

SUSTRAIL - a pan-European Sustainable Freight Railway project - included in Rail Engineer's look at Innovation.


STRUCTURES STRENGTHENING PROGRAMME Stobart Rail were contracted by Skanska and Balfour Beatty to deliver elements of a £60m construction of the Bermondsey dive-under, as part of the Thameslink Development Programme.

Project Overview The Skanska project was interesting as it presented challenges with Adjacent Line Opening (ALO). The successful planning and management of the project enabled the work to be completed over a consecutive 28 day, 24 hour operation. The project was successfully completed, with its objectives delivered safely and on time, within budget and exceeding the expectations of the Network Rail team who were overseeing the activities. Our key project achievements: •

All works undertaken with ALO

Removal of the track

Excavate fill from arches

Remove track and spoil to lay down area utilising ALO, constrained by open lines either side of the works

Placement of steel cages and framework

Concrete saddle over arches to strengthen structure

Form robust kerb (concrete)

Waterproof and install drainage

24 hour working

Neil Bishop, Construction Manager, Network Rail: “Regarding the work carried out by your team during the recent 402-408 works here at Bermondsey in particular, with the ALO working and how it was managed out on site. “I was out on site frequently during which time I was able to observe the machine controllers, drivers and COSS’s carrying out the works. It was clear from their actions and subsequent conversations how professional they were in relation to working adjacent to the open lines. “I would appreciate it if you could pass this on to the lads and I look forward to working with them all again over the coming months. “Many thanks on another successful possession.”

Craig Jackson Project Manager e. Andrew Sumner Business Development and Stakeholder Manager e. Dave Richardson Plant Manager e. Gary Newton Contracts and Estimating Manager e. Stobart Rail Head Office t. 01228 882 300 Neil Bishop Construction Manager e.

Rail Engineer • September 2015


Trouble Causer: The Story of Bowshank Tunnel

The Borders Railway tunnel has had its problems.

18 Technology with a capital T

58 Freight train of the future

A European project to design a better bogie for freight wagons.

86 From Little Acorns...



Contents Borders Railway Complete  The longest new railway in the UK for a century.


End of the Line for Elizabeth!  What do you do with a huge TBM when it’s done its job?


ERTMS – A Reality Check  The ORR called Rail Engineer in to discuss the future of signalling.


Building on Experience  Fenix Signalling is investing in training to bridge the skills gap.


The S&T Delivery Challenge  Linbrooke has set out to deliver a variety of telecoms projects.


What Happens to the Old Stuff? But not forgetting the New!  Park Signalling interfaces old technology with today’s.


Dealing With Data  What’s important and what’s not? Telent filters the data flow.


Data Communications Made Easy – the Westermo Way  Mission-critical solutions for harsh environments.


Train Detection in Summit Tunnel  The 1984 fire caused ongoing problems – until recently.


Train Connectivity – The Future Beckons  There’s more to it than just getting your laptop working.


Balcombe Signalling Upgrade  TICS and Kier bring resilience to the Brighton line.


Swindon Panel  Rescuing a signalling panel for posterity – through a window!


Setting a Broad Goal  RSSB boss explains why innovation is so important.


Reliability Through Redundancy  REPOINT is a new switch design using an old concept.


Track to the Future  Taking the ideas from Track 21 several steps further.


Are You Interesting?  If you are, then you’re probably up for a Most Interesting Award!


We’re looking to highlight the latest projects and innovations in

Plant & Equipment


in the November issue of Rail Engineer. Got a fantastic innovation? Working on a great project? Call Nigel on 01530 816 445 NOW!

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Rail Engineer • September 2015


Signalling more


Editor Grahame Taylor


Our signalling gurus are out in force this month!

Production Editor Nigel Wordsworth

Production and design Adam O’Connor Matthew Stokes

Engineering writers

Advertising Asif Ahmed

Chris Davies

Devan Karsan Jolene Price

Rail Engineer Rail Media House, Samson Road, Coalville Leicestershire, LE67 3FP, UK. Telephone:

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Editorial copy Email:

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Simplified Bi-Directional Signalling (SIMBIDS), a good idea when it was introduced back in the 1980s, seemed to run into the long grass. But something was needed so that repairs could take place in Balcombe tunnel, and closing the Brighton line has never been an option! Clive Kessell looks at emerging new technology. Talking of which, settle down into a comfy chair and give yourself time to read Clive’s analysis of the current state of ERTMS. Everything (almost) is possible with sound engineering. ERTMS may take time and it may devour cash. Will funders lose their bottle? See what you think. It can be quite tricky dealing with cables at the bottom of the sea. That’s what Linbrooke did when it started up in 2002. Here’s an example of another company that has migrated its activities into the rail sphere and Clive went to see them. Once just ‘nice to have’, it’s now become part of the furniture on trains. It is? Wi-Fi - and plenty of it. Always on, always reliable... perhaps. Clive’s been briefed on the inevitable challenges of public expectations that can collide with down to earth engineering. Paul Darlington investigates the intricacies of IP networks with the arboreal analogy of trees, trunks, branches and leaves. He profiles a company that is a provider of equipment specifically aimed at the ‘last mile’ - or the twigs. A part becomes ‘obsolete’ when someone doesn’t want to make it any more. It doesn’t mean necessarily that the part can’t be made or at least imitated. Located close to one of the network’s ghost stations, there is a company that can give many signalling installations a new lease of life and Paul took the one-way trip to Reddish South. Summit tunnel is long and cold and draughty and isolated. It also has had problems with track circuits that haven’t performed because it’s long and cold….etc. Paul tells us of some really clever lateral thinking that appears to have solved the Summit problem and which could be used in other locations - even those that are warm and sunny - which Summit isn’t. “To you... To me... Over a bit.” Moving a complete control panel from the old Swindon Panel box will be much more controlled as it is long, heavy and, to the Swindon Panel Society, very precious. Preserving this iconic piece of WR equipment involves careful thought. David Bickell has been keeping his fingers out of the way. What happens when all the condition monitoring messages from all the assets on a route are fed into one display? Alarms go off all over the place! There’s just too much data. Alert Gateway has come to the rescue to restore sanity. SUSTRAIL is a European initiative aimed at creating

the Sustainable Freight Railway. Huddersfield University is heading up a new wagon design with input from all over Europe. David Shirres points out, though, that not everything depends on engineering. There’s politics involved. It’s a brave move! Loughborough University has ventured into the redesign of track switches. After 150 years or so of steady evolution, how can they be totally reinvented? David Shirres has seen the concept. This could be a real test of the approvals process - great fun to watch! The RSSB has a slightly unhelpful title - Railway Standards and Safety Board. Sure that’s what it was set up to do, but it always dabbled in innovative ideas. Nigel Wordsworth spoke recently to Chris Fenton and it appears that RSSB is heavily involved in all sorts of new projects - including design competitions which we’re featuring next month. Perhaps the acronym EPSRC might look like yet another signalling system. But no, it stands for the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and they stump up grants to universities for ..…research. Chris Parker talked to Southampton University to see what £5 million will buy in the field of track design. What do you do with a large expensive bit of kit that’s been burrowing underground for the last few months. It’s not quite as simple as driving back out as there’s no reverse gear. Chris Parker has been to Farringdon to hear that Elizabeth has been cut up into little pieces for recycling. It’s a bit brutal, but that’s what happens to a tunnelling machine. About the time that Rail Engineer thuds onto your doormat, the Borders railway will have had a royal reopening. David Shirres has been looking at the ups and downs and the lessons learnt. First moral? Talk to the utilities early! The few seconds of darkness in Bowshank Tunnel conceal an array of heroic - and less than heroic repairs over the past century or so. They also hide the extensive works carried out recently to secure its future and to allow train services to start on the Borders railway. Graeme Bickerdike took his torch and has seen inside. You might think that tunnels are a barrier to the migration of wildlife along a railway, but creepycrawlies will find a way through any obstruction. As Melanie Oxley observes, it’s the linear nature of the railway environment that allows otherwise vulnerable wildlife, in all its forms, to thrive and spread. Pity about knotweed though. Have a look at our shortlist for the ‘Most Interesting’ awards. It’s quite a long list. And there’s just time to get your entries in for our photo competition as well.



Rail Engineer • September 2015

Third time lucky? Thales has been confirmed as the third recipient of a contract to re-signal the Sub Surface Railway of London Underground (the Hammersmith & City, Circle, District and Metropolitan lines). A contract worth around £550 million was originally given to Westinghouse (then Invensys and now Siemens) by Metronet back in 2003. However, when the PPP collapsed in 2008, so did the contract.

It was re-tendered by London Underground and awarded to Bombardier in 2011. The basis of the project would be the system running successfully on Madrid Metro, which also resulted in a lower cost contract (£354

million) as it was all established technology. The trains were also being supplied by Bombardier so they could be easily fitted with the on-board elements of the system. However, as the contract progressed, London Underground asked for more and more changes to the system, taking it away from the proven technology used in Madrid and turning it into something

bespoke, and more expensive. Bombardier eventually got fed up with all the changes and handed the contract back at the end of 2013. Now Thales has its chance with a £760 million contract. It is a new system, not the same one that Thales has already installed on the Northern line, so Rail Engineer will be keen to see how the company gets on.



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Rail Engineer • September 2015


Dawlish finally complete Before repairs were completed. The damage caused to the railway at Dawlish in February 2014, severing all rail links with Cornwall and West Devon, has finally been completed. The railway was reopened after just two months of hard work by Network Rail and its contractors, but there was still a lot of tidying up to do. Over the next 18 months the

team strengthened the sea wall and carried out cliff stabilisation work at Teignmouth to prevent any future extreme weather causing the level of damage that occurred last year.

The final phase involved building a new wall in front of the existing sea wall between Rockstone and Coastguard footbridges to provide further protection, and reconstructing the walkway so that its height was level with the sections on either side. As a result, the full length of the

walkway from Dawlish Warren to Teignmouth can be used at both low and high tide. The whole area will continue to be monitored and, as reported in issue 129 (July 2015), an investigation is underway to plan a complete new route to the West, avoiding Dawlish altogether.

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Rail Engineer • August 2015

ETCS for Gotthard

The new 57km long Gotthard Base Tunnel, due to be opened in 2017, will be controlled using ETCS level 2 signalling. The longest railway tunnel in the world (described in issue 82, August 2011) will have twin bore tunnels and will carry more than 300 passenger and freight trains

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ETCS level 2 and a centralised traffic control system. The new Gotthard Base Tunnel will form part of the NRLA (New Rail Link through the Alps) which also includes the 34.6km Lötschberg Base Tunnel that opened in 2007.

Rail Engineer • September 2015


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Rail Engineer • August 2015

Enlarging Farnworth Up tunnel (opened 1838)

What do you do when a tunnel is too small? How do you chip away at the walls to make it bigger without the whole lot crashing down around you? The answer, in the case of Farnworth tunnel near Bolton, is to fill it in and then start again from scratch. Farnworth is a strange tunnel. It has two 270 metre long bores, but they aren’t the same. The southbound tunnel was originally twin-track and constructed in 1838.

New tunnel (8m internal diameter)

200mm sprayed concrete lining


As trains grew it was too constricted for two tracks, so a second smaller tunnel was bored in 1880 and is now the northbound tunnel. The larger original is today single-track. However, with electrification, they are now both too small. So the 1880 tunnel is being used bidirectionally while the larger 1838

A rather embarrassing accident, during which a loaded work train ran into the back of a train-load of empties in a track renewals work site at Logan in Ayrshire, has been cleared up. The mishap on 1 August left a 130-tonne locomotive and 16 wagons derailed along with a considerable amount of track damage. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch is investigating. As the renewals team was on site anyway, repairing the track didn’t take long once the

Down tunnel (opened 1880)

wreckage had been removed. That, however, took a 350 metre long haul road, an operating pad, a 1,000 tonne crane, a smaller crane to build the large one, a fleet of low-loaders to remove the damaged wagons and two weeks. The line reopened on 17 August.

tunnel was completely filled with 7,500m3 of foam concrete. It is now being rebored using a tunnel boring machine, almost as though it was virgin hillside. At nine metres in diameter at its cutter head, the Farnworth tunnel boring machine is bigger than those used to build London’s Crossrail (7.1

metres), Thames Tideway (8 metres) and even the Channel Tunnel (8.8 metres). The resultant ‘new’ tunnel will be big enough for two tracks and electrification, so upon completion the small 1880 tunnel will be closed. Boring started mid-August and the tunnel is due to reopen in October. See Rail Engineer issue 127 May.

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Rail Engineer • September 2015

Edinburgh Waverley




Newtongrange NEW VIADUCT OVER A7



Driver training DMU at new bridge built to replace old level crossing at Heriot. FALAHILL SUMMIT A7 ROADWORKS













n 6 September 2015, passenger trains will run between Edinburgh and Galashiels for the first time since the 157 kilometre Waverley route from Edinburgh to Carlisle closed in January 1969. At 49 kilometres, this is the longest new domestic line in Britain for over a hundred years. For its first 3.6 km, the line is on a new alignment. This includes a station at Shawfair (1.4km), on what was the derelict site at an old colliery and is now part of a new housing development, and a crossing under the Edinburgh City Bypass. Soon after rejoining the old solum, new viaducts at Hardengreen roundabout and Gorebridge were required where road improvements cut the old railway. Stations are provided at the Edinburgh outer suburbs of Eskbank (5.5km), Newtongrange (7.7km) and Gorebridge (11.2km). After Gorebridge, the line climbs to the 271 metre high Falahill summit and then descends by the twisting Gala Water that requires 16 bridges, 14 of which are the originals still in place. After Stow station (34.8km), it reaches Galashiels (45.5km) where buildings built over the old solum had to be demolished and bridges provided over new roads. After leaving Galashiels, an original viaduct takes the line over the River Tweed to terminate at Tweedbank station (48.7km). It is a single-track line with three dynamic loops totalling 6.5km to provide a 30-minute service frequency.

Beeching’s unkindest cut Galashiels


Tweedbank RI











Closure of the Waverley route left the Scottish Borders as the only region in the UK without a rail link. This has been described as the unkindest of Dr Beeching’s cuts. After its closure, the route was not protected and so bridges were demolished and new roads, services and buildings encroached the railway solum. By the mid-1980s, Scotland’s attitude to its railways had changed. Fifty new stations opened in ten years and, in 1984, the Bathgate freight line re-opened to passenger traffic which achieved its projected 1994 traffic growth by 1987. In this climate, a campaign grew for the re-opening of the Waverley route. This resulted in the Scottish Office commissioning

Rail Engineer • September 2015


Borders Railway Complete

New bridge and road at Heriot under construction in November 2013. a £400,000 feasibility report that was published in 2000, about the same time as road improvements cut the old railway embankment at Hardengreen. It concluded that reinstating the entire route would offer few benefits and be expensive due to significant breaches south of Tweedbank. It also concluded that a passenger service between Edinburgh and Tweedbank was likely to be viable. This led to the formation of the Waverley Railway Partnership consisting of Scottish Borders, Midlothian and City of Edinburgh Councils to progress the re-opening of the line between Edinburgh and Tweedbank. To do this, Scottish Borders Council (SBC) became Promoter of a Bill to the Scottish Parliament in September 2003. After nearly three years, this Bill received Royal Assent in July 2006 to become the Waverley Railway (Scotland) Act 2006.

The Mastermind clause This Act gave the Promoter powers to acquire the land required to build the new railway. It also included a unique “I’ve started so I’ll finish” clause. This addressed concerns that future funding issues might result in the line only being built to Gorebridge and so required the promoter to complete the line once work started. The Mastermind clause was triggered in March 2010 with the start of advanced works, including scour protection and utility works. Transport Scotland managed this work, having taken over the role of authorised undertaker from SBC in August 2008. For the main works, their procurement strategy was a design, build, finance and maintain (DBFM) contract which made the contractor responsible for the railway after it had been built, instead of it being part of Network Rail’s infrastructure. The intention was that the contractor’s design and build practice would be influenced by his responsibility to operate and maintain the line. Three consortia expressed an interest after Transport Scotland started the DBFM tender process in December 2009, expecting to let this contract in autumn 2011 and have the line re-opened in December 2014. However, when two of the original three consortia withdrew, possibly because of finance issues in the then economic climate, Transport Scotland decided that Network Rail should manage the project.

Under new management Thus, in September 2011, Network Rail started to manage the project with Transport Scotland remaining the authorised undertaker. Before Network Rail could take over this role, the design had to be developed and constructability assessed to produce a robust estimate of cost and programme. In November 2012, this was agreed with Transport Scotland and the Office of Rail Regulation (as it then was) so that Network Rail could become the authorised undertaker. This agreement included a September 2015 opening date. Prior to the agreement being formalised, Network Rail could only undertake advanced works. This was done under a framework contract awarded to BAM Nuttall in March 2012 that included vegetation clearance, fencing, environmental mitigation, mining remediation and property demolition. In December 2012, the design and build contract for the main works was let to BAM Nuttall and it was announced that the construction cost would be £294 million. This included track materials, engineering trains and BAM Nuttall’s contract cost. The contract was target cost with a pain-gain share arrangement. At the time, Gavin Gerrard of BAM Nuttall advised that the company’s involvement in the previous DBFM process had forced BAM Nuttall to think about maintenance as never before and so the final design featured reduced maintenance costs. So although DBFM was dead, it had a positive influence. Scottish Minister of Transport Stewart Stephenson with veteran rail campaigner Madge Elliot at ceremony to mark start of work in March 2010.


Rail Engineer • September 2015

To Edinburgh


After the main works started in April 2013, major earthworks were largely completed by the end of October after which the focus shifted to structures such as the 137 bridges on the route of which 42 were new. The line’s largest new structure at Hardengreen took shape in February 2014 with the installation of four 107-tonne beams. It took from October 2014 to February 2015 to lay the track. After completion of signalling and station work, the line was commissioned on 6 June.


The line commissioned













At the end of June, Rail Engineer was glad of the opportunity to meet Network Rail’s project director Hugh Wark for a look back at the project and to learn about its commissioning. Then track and signalling was complete and minor work remained such as road works, landscaping and noise barriers. Driver training started immediately after commissioning. This paused between 16 and 19 July when the trains were needed for the Open Golf Championship. A possession was then taken to finish minor lineside work such as drainage, markers and access points. Hugh advised that the physical work done during the commissioning weekend was relatively simple as the signalling is only at the loop ends. This entailed re-programming the Millerhill SSI and minor physical work such as removing derailers and buffer stops at the start of the line after a route proving train checked the line. The big challenge was ensuring that all relevant certification was in place to demonstrate that works were properly designed and were built in accordance with the design, such as stressing certificates and certificates of compliance for switches. To ensure everything was in place in the weeks leading up to the commissioning, there was a two-weekly meeting to review commissioning lists and other paperwork. An essential requirement was safety approval, carried out in accordance with the Common Safety Method (CSM) as required by recent European legislation. This requires an independent assessment body to review documentation and issue a satisfactory safety assessment report. After a large number of technical queries, the required satisfactory report was received two weeks before commissioning. Network Certification Body, an independent subsidiary of Network Rail, undertook this approval. As well as the update of railway publications such as the Sectional Appendix, a compatibility statement was required to show the rolling stock allowed to run on the line. This shows that only class 158 and 170 DMUs have blanket approval. Any other rolling stock, such as steam hauled special trains, requires a special instruction before it can run on the line that

may specify limitations such as speed limits over certain bridges. Network Rail maintenance became responsible for the safety of the line and rapid response immediately after the commissioning. As a separate process, the new line’s assets had to be formally accepted into the maintenance regime. This process started in April when structures walkouts determined the actions required before assets could be accepted. Most structures were signed off before the commissioning and the track signed off over a week later. Stations were handed over to ScotRail during the weekend of 14 June.

Interoperability The Railways (Interoperability) Regulations 2011 (RIR) came into force in 2012 to promote a single European market in the rail sector. They require compliance with Technical Standards for Interoperability (TSI) and apply to new, upgraded or renewed infrastructure and rolling stock. Under RIR, the Office of Rail and Road (the new name for ORR) has to issue an Authorisation to Place in Service (APIS) before passengers can be carried on the line. On such a large-scale project with a mix of old and new infrastructure, both CSM and RIR were major approval issues. For Hugh this was a “big learning curve for everyone and a huge issue for everyone from the beginning.” He explained that RIR does not explicitly address the re-opening of old railway lines. It considers infrastructure by subsystems so it was possible to distinguish between existing and new assets. Even though they had been out of use for 50 years, tunnels and old bridges were considered to be existing assets on which the project had done maintenance. Infrastructure TSIs applied to new bridges, major new bridge decks, track and other new assets. For track, it had been hoped to re-use serviceable F27 type sleepers but the track TSI did not permit this. Hugh points out that, in some cases, TSIs allow options from the general standard. For example, the applicable TSI specifies that stations should be 240 metres long. However, this TSI has a clause that allows platform length to be determined from the trains that actually run on the line. Galashiels and Tweedbank station platforms take nine 23-metre coaches, whilst other stations take six 23-metre coaches. At the end of June, the project’s technical file was not quite complete and it was expected that this would shortly be submitted to ORR from whom it was hoped to get APIS by mid-August.

Collaborative working Hugh was pleased with the relationship with BAM Nuttall. He considered that undertaking the early site investigation and mining remediation

Rail Engineer • September 2015

works as separate contracts under an overarching framework had worked well. Whilst there was clearly a commercial relationship, it was also a collaborative one that shared risks to get best results from the design. He was glad of the early contractor involvement at design stage that was very successful. This included workshops with project engineers and, more importantly, asset engineers and maintenance to get their key requirements, which were incorporated into the project requirements specification and contract requirements technical. As a result, low-maintenance was built into the design. There is no requirement for a continuous power supply along the line. Other than fixed signs and the occasional lubricator, the only equipment is at the signalling islands at the end of the loops. Signalling is designed to be very simple with LEDs and fold down signals avoiding the need for ladders and heavy bases.


(Left) Galashiels in November 2011. Flats on trackbed had to be demolished. (Below) Class 158 DMU used for driver training at Galashiels station in June. “When we got to final design and build stage we knew the contractor was happy with the design as he designed it and understood remaining risks. For example, despite all the ground investigations, digging into old infrastructure finds stuff you didn’t know about, so we have to deal with numerous old culverts and other features, but had allowed for that within contingency.” Hugh contrasted this with his experience on the Airdrie to Bathgate (A2B) project that had no early contractor involvement and fixed price

contracts. He felt that Network Rail procurement had moved on since then to encourage early involvement with collaboration and alliances. A project alliance had been considered but was rejected, as around 75% of the project value was civils work. With one big supplier, an alliance was not considered appropriate.

Communications and challenges The crowds that greeted the track laying train on its progress down the line were just one example of interest in the line. Hugh was

Engineering Design and Environmental Support for New Railways

For sustainable environmental solutions

Abandoned for 40 years and running through beautiful countryside, the 50km Borders Railway had become heavily overgrown and populated by large numbers of protected species, which required to be managed, protected, and in some cases moved during construction. IKM worked closely with main contractor BAM Nuttall and the regulators to ensure that the project team knew how to protect the environment and work with the wildlife, while avoiding programme delays or additional costs to the project. IKM managed 170 badger setts, 400 potential bat roosts, otter holts, nesting birds, water quality, noise and vibration, and diverted 1,000,000m3 of waste soils away from landfill to ensure a highly sustainable new railway.





Rail Engineer • September 2015

Bridge, in February 2011 and below is the restored wrought iron bridge at Galabank.

quite pleased with the communications. On A2B, this had been fragmented with multiple contractors and the communications team separate from the project. In contrast, Borders project communications were presented as being from the Borders Railway, rather than Network Rail or BAM Nuttall. is the project’s hugely successful website with a progress section that includes a detailed construction timeline with photographs and podcasts of the ‘On Track’ project updates on Radio Borders. The site had an “incredible number of hits” with around 30,000 visits per month. On Twitter, @BordersRailway has over 4,000 Twitter followers. As well as online communications, the project has a number of community engagement programmes including a Borders Railway Community Fund that has supported almost a hundred community organisations and charities. One of these was Tweedbank Playgroup’s ‘Choo-Choose to be safe’ project to educate children on the importance of rail safety. Although the project had almost no impact on the operational railway, it still faced significant challenges with the sheer volume of work that had to be done in a two-year period. This was reflected in the need for about 100,000 lorry movements that included 7,500 for track ballast. The environmental element of the project was a big challenge. South of Falahill, the project ran through a Special Area of Conservation for the River Tweed that includes its Gala Water tributary. Hence, particular attention had to be paid to construction silt run off after heavy rain. There were many protected species including River Lamprey, Otters, Badgers and Bats. One hundred and sixty badger sets were affected. The project worked closely with Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency and the River Tweed Commissioners. Hugh felt that BAM Nuttall and its environmental specialists, IKM Consulting, deserved credit for their strong site presence that ensured the thousand or so people on site understood the environmental issues and the resultant constraints on their work.

The utilities challenge In discussion with Hugh, it was clear that the diversion of public utilities was one area where some work had not gone well. Although some utilities had diverted their services in an effective manner, other companies had proved problematic and had not been able to give a time for their diversions. Some utilities had many different departments, were very procedurally orientated and could not programme their work effectively. For example, materials could not be ordered until a certain stage was complete. Often problems were discovered at a late stage. In one case, a problem on an associated route required a road closure that then delayed work for a further three months. Hugh felt that, for some companies, the

length of their supply chain would not be acceptable on railway projects. Effective liaison is not possible when the project only has contact with two men digging holes who are sub-sub-contractors. In hindsight, he would have established contact with a senior director for each of the utility companies beforehand as had been done with Scottish Power, an arrangement that worked well. Problems with utilities had required significant programme re-phasing that ate into contingency and thus had the potential to delay the project opening.

Slow start, fast finish From the publication of the initial feasibility report, it took fifteen years to re-open the line between Edinburgh and Tweedbank with the first six years spent preparing and progressing the line’s Bill which received Royal Assent in 2006. For campaigners and the local Councils, this was a significant achievement. Yet it was not until 2010 that work started on the line with the advanced works managed by Transport Scotland. After Network Rail’s first involvement in 2011, its agreement to manage the main works was signed in November 2012. Since then, Network Rail and its contractor, BAM Nuttall, have delivered the new Borders Railway in under three years to the time and cost agreed in 2012. For Hugh Wark and his team this had obviously been a satisfying project. Hugh found bringing old railway infrastructure back into use was particularly rewarding, especially the Gala Water’s many wrought iron bridges. One of his most memorable moments was the “phenomenal” number of people who greeted the track laying train. No doubt there will also be a phenomenal number of people at the opening ceremonies which include special steam trains and the line’s official opening by Her Majesty the Queen on 9 September. Other railway openings in Scotland indicate that the line’s trains will also see a good number of people as the Scottish Borders takes advantage of having a rail link in its region for the first time in 46 years.

Rail Engineer has regularly reported on the Borders project and has been pleased to see the project progress to completion. For the full story, re-read the articles published in issues 78 (April 2011), 83 (September 2011), 94 (August 2012), 110 (December 2013), 119 (September 2014) and 123 (January 2015).


Rail Engineer • September 2015

As the Scottish Borders looks forward to a future served by rail, we peer over our shoulder at one of its new line’s most significant structures and the chequered history it has endured. PHOTO: BORDERS RAILWAY

The track laying train passes beneath a section of lining that has been strengthened with sprayed concrete.









the story of Bowshank Tunnel

Rail Engineer • September 2015


t our fingertips is the power to communicate. Videos. Photos. Eulogies. Rants. There is no escape from it; an addictive chatter that’s pushed through the ether, seeking out the curious. Living room. Workplace. Street corner. Shop. A reflection of the times we live in, for better or worse. Tweet. Upload. Post.


For those awaiting this month’s new dawn for the Borders’ lost Waverley route, our digital world has built palpable expectation, opening a window on the alignment’s transformation from wilderness to modern transport corridor. Twitter feeds charted the track laying machine’s advance towards the terminus at Tweedbank, whilst monthly podcasts and a regular YouTube series examined the line’s whys and wherefores from every conceivable angle. Local journals fulfilled much the same role in the 1840s when the North British Railway originally constructed the section that is now reopening, as part of its line linking Edinburgh with Hawick. Though rather less immediate than rolling news and social media, the stories they told were altogether more colourful. Life was back then.

returning from their rounds. The vengeance they wreaked was ruthless, subjecting Pace to a savage attack during which he was struck on the head with a pickaxe, opening his skull. He was left for dead in the road; Veitch escaped after being “severely maltreated”. Order was restored by 13 arrests but when, on Monday morning, the English and Scottish labourers heard of the policeman’s demise, 2,000 of them descended on Crichton Muir where the Irish gangs were employed, armed with bludgeons and hammers. Hopelessly


The tunnel contributed to the 140 structures requiring remediation or reconstruction for the new Borders Railway, but the character of the challenge at Bowshank must have looked easygoing alongside that confronting John Miller who engineered the tunnel for the North British 160-odd years earlier. It’s clear that things did not go well.

Quality control To the south of Falahill Summit, the route falls to meet Gala Water which it crosses 14 times before entering Galashiels. It does so twice at Bowshank, either side of a spur that the river meanders around but the railway penetrates. This spur’s geology takes the form of an anticline, the sandstone and seams of shale being folded

Bowshank’s 1950s south portal, before the railway’s return.

Take as an example the events of Sunday 1st March 1846. In the early hours of that morning, the police lock-up at Gorebridge was occupied by a pair of the railway’s Irish navvies, charged with stealing two watches. This apparently minor misdemeanour might have gone unnoticed had things not escalated into a murderous riot when around 150 men assembled, intent on liberating their workmates. All hell broke loose. Sergeant Brown and Constable Christie, on duty inside, offered futile resistance, the latter sustaining serious arm injuries whilst the former had a gun pointed at his head. The cell doors were forcibly opened, the prisoners released and the mob then marched off towards Fushiebridge where they encountered constables Pace and Veitch


War and timepiece

outnumbered, it would have been a bloodbath had the Irishmen not got wind of the approaching hordes and fled. Instead, spleens were vented on the 20 wood and turf huts used as lodgings, razing them to the ground by fire. Four miles north of Galashiels, life at the navvy encampment next to Bowshank Tunnel accommodating 300 men - was comparatively dull, save for occasional poultry thefts and a fatal outbreak of cholera which struck just as work there drew to a close in February 1849.

dramatically upwards by tectonic forces, reaching near-vertical in places; thus the rock is broken and blocky. Above this is a layer of glacial drift. Construction involved a now-hidden shaft being sunk down to track level, with progress effected from the bottom of it as well as the two ends, 250 yards apart. But this approach, whilst complying with convention, was not sufficient to prevent lengthy delays to the programme, the line being opened as far as the north portal six months before the first train actually ventured inside.











Rail Engineer • September 2015



Progress is made installing rails for the Up line.

A cross section through the tunnel towards its southern end.

One cause of those delays was a significant surveying error in driving the headings which resulted in the tunnel’s alignment deviating from that planned. This might go some way to explaining the variation in curvature which included sections of 22 chains, 37 chains and 25 chains in radius from north to south. The lining was also poorly executed. These deficiencies were rectified over the summer of 1875 when an extensive package of improvements was carried out, widening the tunnel by as much as five feet towards its southern end and renewing the arch wherever defects had developed. It was probably during this intervention that a vertical wall was built on the west side, behind which storage rooms were created for the platelayers. The difficulties associated with this work should not be underestimated. Headway was made in 18-foot lengths, dismantling the existing brickwork, blasting away rock and then erecting timber frames to serve as centring for the new arch. In principle, the process was much the same as that adopted at Holme Tunnel on Lancashire’s Copy Pit route in 2013/14. But that involved a five-month blockade. At Bowshank, the labourers had to contend with a procession of goods and passenger trains, single line working having been instigated through the establishment of block telegraph stations at both ends of the tunnel. In those days, performance took priority over almost everything.






Fifties downfall Like humans, structures suffer an inevitable decline as time takes its toll. Fast-forwarding to the 1950s, we discover distortion of the tunnel’s lining throughout much of its length - mostly affecting the Up (east) side - with areas of brick spalling located close to each portal. At the south end, a flattening of the arch was apparent over a distance of around 37 yards, with the crown having dropped by six inches near the middle of this section, appearing almost horizontal. Steel ribs had been installed at 4-foot centres to provide support but excessive loading was causing these to deform. To address these defects, remedial works started in August 1955, with some lengths of arch being rebuilt to give an additional rise of one foot. More ribs were also inserted. This was however a sticking plaster as specialists had deemed it too dangerous to attempt any repair at the point of greatest distortion. Then, on 18th September, as a 10’ by 2’6” section of brickwork was being cut out, the arch partly collapsed and seven tons of debris was deposited on the track. The foreman had no choice but to close the Up line, over which single line working had again been implemented.

Hard choices The loosening of rock along joint and bedding planes, initiated by tensile conditions at a tunnel’s bored face, usually meets equilibrium some distance above it. However this process was being complicated and prolonged at Bowshank by the proximity of the glacial drift near both portals. It was therefore not reasonable to presume that a permanent state of safe equilibrium existed at any point along the tunnel’s course. Seismic surveys were undertaken and a series of boreholes sunk to gain insight into the local geological conditions. Based on the findings, it was recommended that the overburden at the southern end should be removed and the first 40 yards of tunnel demolished. This would result in a cutting 80 feet deep, at the end of which a mass concrete portal was to be erected. Work progressed mostly from above - minimising any operational interference - but Sunday possessions allowed attention to be focused on the portals, wing walls and lining. Completion of the excavation element brought an unwelcome discovery: a substantial void above the lining - reaching 8 feet high in places - which appeared to

Rail Engineer • September 2015

(Left) The vertical wall behind which storage was provided for the route’s platelayers.

(Below) One of the two sections of cut-out arch.

Thirst for knowledge Amidst great controversy, passenger services over the Waverley line were withdrawn on Monday 6th January 1969, although goods trains continued to serve Hawick until the end of April. Bowshank Tunnel’s period of disuse was spent largely as a farmer’s store, but restoration to operational status became a likely reality with Royal Assent for the Waverley Railway (Scotland) Act in July 2006. Following procurement difficulties, delivery of the new line


extend throughout the remainder of the tunnel. An adventurer was dispatched into this space to take profiles at 5-foot centres, revealing that several rock falls had occurred which were overloading the arch to a point where its condition could not be regarded as sustainable in the long term. Engineers accepted the need for a larger-scale intervention. Two options were considered. The first involved opening-out the tunnel, but this was attended with significant logistical difficulties, disruption and cost, prompting it to be ruled out; the second called for the void to be filled. Consequently, a 2’6” thick reinforced concrete saddle was formed above the brickwork, effectively rendering the original lining redundant except through the northernmost 25 yards where the arch was rebuilt. Stone was hand-packed between the saddle and overlying rock to fill the remaining void. The construction methodology and means of access are not clear, but it’s fair to presume the venture asked difficult questions of all those involved.

was handed to Network Rail in 2011, with BAM Nuttall subsequently appointed as principal contractor. The tunnel’s refurbishment was carried out to a design developed by Donaldson Associates.

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Rail Engineer • September 2015

April 2011 brought a visual examination which raised no particular concerns, conditions being broadly as expected: uneven brickwork, open mortar joints and the like. There was however uncertainty about the purpose of the vertical wall and some surprise that two sections of arch had been removed, 5-10m in length, revealing the concrete saddle. This might well have been done to ease localised structure gauge issues. A year later, a second examination conducted from a MEWP revealed a 50m-long hinge forming at the Down-side haunch, but cores confirming the presence of the saddle did much to restore confidence that this was longstanding and presented little risk. It was initially concluded, where brick spalling exceeded 40mm, that the outer course of headers would be removed and 150mm of spray concrete applied, pinned right through into the saddle. However the design philosophy evolved over time, moving towards greater enhancement of the existing lining’s factor of safety through brick replacement, repointing and pinning. In the two sections with missing arch, a 225mm spray concrete lining would be installed.

Disturbing echoes


At the outset, the removal of bricks to make way for the concrete was undertaken in 3m bays, Datum providing extensometer arrays to enable any movement at either side to be recorded. Temporary GRP pins were inserted for stability, after which the lining was saw-cut

to one ring’s depth and strapped to prevent any damage to adjacent brickwork during breakout. A fast-setting regulating layer - containing Xypex waterproofing additive - was then applied, with permanent pins and drainage installed before the lining was sprayed up. In longer sections, hit-one miss-one sequencing was adopted whereby the next 3m panel would be left until the one beyond it had been completed. The approach proved so effective that the bay widths were extended to 5m and eventually up to 7m. Forth Stone was responsible for the brickwork repairs, the materials used matching the original so well that it was often difficult to detect where the work had been done. Arguably the most challenging activity was lowering the invert to accommodate the slab track, a high-fixity solution being needed because of tight clearances. Although the deepest excavation was only 450mm, concerns were raised about possible destabilisation of the sidewalls. Echoes could be heard here of the tragedy at Penmanshiel when another of John Miller’s tunnels - also in the Scottish Borders and through similar ground collapsed in March 1979 during an invert lowering operation to permit the carriage of 8’6” containers. Two men were overwhelmed by an estimated 2,000 tonnes of rock. After carrying out investigations to establish the depth of the sidewalls’ footings, the approach adopted at Bowshank was to first complete the linings works, thus providing reassurance that

the structure was robust. Thereafter, vertical saw cuts were made into the existing rock invert at a distance 300mm from the toe, to ensure the breaking-out did not impact on the sidewall support zone. Where it had to, those areas were left until the end, after the concrete blinding layer had been poured. This was an exercise in understanding the causes of a historic failure, learning lessons from it and developing mitigation measures for each identified risk to prevent a recurrence. The process benefited in part from live condition monitoring by engineers on site.

Pause for thought Reconnecting the Borders to the railway network is big news, socially and economically. The Twittersphere has been humming, nostalgic locals articulate their pleasure extensively across the press and media, and politicians bask in the glory of it all. The engineering travails of the past three years are already being lost in the memory, but it’s right that we now look forward…perhaps as far as Carlisle. But you can’t see much when you’re inside Bowshank Tunnel. If you ever ride Britain’s newest line, there will be a few seconds when the rural vista succumbs to its darkness. This is something that should be celebrated. Securing this short passageway for the safe transit of your train has demanded years of unseen application, both on the part of riotous navvies and today’s community of professional engineers.

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Rail Engineer • September 2015

End of the Line for Elizabeth! CHRIS PARKER


ail Engineer has visited the new Crossrail Farringdon station site before (issue 118, August 2014) and has looked at the working of the tunnel boring machines (TBMs). However, the latest visit to Farringdon was a bit different to either previous experience.

This time the TBM was not in a cutting at the start of its drive, rather it was being dismantled deep underground having triumphantly completed its work. There is a danger of becoming too complacent about tunnelling under London. This is partly the fault of the Crossrail project, the team having done its complex job under the city so well that it hasn’t attracted the publicity that can attend when things go spectacularly wrong. The Crossrail team has delivered 42km of 6.2 metre bore tunnels using eight TBMs through ground that must be more densely packed with foundations, services and other tunnels than anywhere else in the world. It has done this on time, within the financial envelope and with a great safety record. This success is down to the skill and attention to detail of the client, its suppliers and its staff. Significant contributions have come from the various joint venture construction teams such as BFK (BAM, Ferrovial, Kier) and DSJV (Dragados Sisk Joint Venture), whose works meet up under the ground at Farringdon. Equally important has been the supply of the efficient TBMs by German specialist Herrenknecht. Now its ‘just’ a case of turning the tunnels into a railway. Due to open in 2018, the new route will add about 10% to central London’s railway capacity. Estimates predict the creation of as many as 55,000 new jobs and £5bn of new retail real estate. But first, the tunnel boring machines have to be removed to make way for the tracks. Crossrail project director Simon Wright, eastern tunnelling project manager Roger Mears and Farringdon station project manager Linda Miller were all on hand to explain how this was being done.

Down to the TBM Access to the works was via the Eastern Ticket Hall site entrance. One immediately noticeable change since the last visit was that no cumbersome re-breather sets were issued. So much more of the underground excavation has now been completed, and the air circulation systems below ground are now so much more comprehensive, that these are no longer required. They are still available below ground, but the risk was now assessed to be too low to necessitate each individual carrying one all the time. Just getting to the Eastern site from the offices at the Western Ticket Hall site is quite a trek. The Crossrail platforms at Farringdon are to be the longest platforms in the whole of Crossrail at some 350 metres. The viewing platform which overlooks the works is actually one storey above street level. The view emphasises how confined the site is by the surrounding streets and neighbouring real estate. The project team has worked hard to keep on good terms with the neighbours and avoiding disputes about structural damage, noise and vibration, air pollution and traffic congestion. From the platform, it is quite a way down to the running tunnels, at present involving many flights of temporary stairs down through the access voids left in the floor slabs of the new structure. These stairs finish 5 levels below the street, on the slab that forms the base of the new ticket hall construction. From there it is necessary to go down a further level into the running tunnel around which the station platform tunnels will be formed. Access during the works is by an adit which will eventually form part of the ventilation system of the new station.

Rail Engineer • September 2015

As might be imagined, space is at a premium down in the cavern where the TBM is being taken apart after completing the drive it has made in creating the eastbound running tunnel. Paradoxically, the tunnel was driven from Limmo, 8.3km to the east, towards Farringdon - in the opposite direction to that of the trains that will eventually use the tunnel.

Dismantling TBM Elizabeth Like her sister, Victoria, which drove the adjacent westbound running tunnel, Elizabeth has done her job and has to go. Victoria actually completed the last tunnel drive of the whole Crossrail project, finishing the drive into Farringdon of the westbound tunnel on 26 May 2015. Elizabeth had finished her drive on the eastbound tunnel a little earlier. The TBMs could not be driven to one side and buried at this location and, at around 130 metres in overall length, the machines and their support trains were too big to be removed by any means other than total dismantling. In any case, the project wished to recycle as much of each of the TBMs used as was practicable. First, the support train behind the cutter head of Elizabeth was taken away. Valuable items such as the electric motors that powered the cutting system were removed intact for reuse. Large and heavy parts of the structure that have little value were cut up into bits and lifted out at Farringdon by the relatively light lifting gear available in the tunnel. One of the more problematic items was the recovery of the main bearing that hung in the centre of the shield of the cutting head and supported the rotating cutter face of the TBM. This is a huge bearing, weighing about 50 tonnes, and is valuable enough that it had to be recovered intact. A cradle running on rails was inserted beneath it and the bearing was lowered onto this. From there it was

dragged back onto a carrier on a temporary rail track, and then hauled along this, back down the new tunnel to a shaft at Stepney Green where there was a crane of sufficient capacity to lift it up out of the shaft. It is due to be taken back to Herrenknecht for refurbishment and reuse. Not all of the TBM was removed. The main cylinder of steel forming the barrel of the cutter head section could not be extracted safely. It was therefore stripped of all ancillaries and the steel diaphragm that closed most of its face, behind where the cutter disc used to be, was cut away. This left a large steel ring that will remain in situ for ever, behind the secondary tunnel lining. Victoria is being treated in exactly the same way. Thus the Crossrail trains will, at this location, run through parts of the machines that built the tunnels for them to use.



Rail Engineer • September 2015

Installing the waterproofing layer (above) before the concrete lining is cast (top).

Unique shuttering The tunnel lining construction in this section of the works is of interest in itself. Whereas in many other areas the secondary tunnel lining was constructed using sprayed

fibre reinforced concrete, similar to that used for the primary lining, BFK elected to use a shuttered concreting method here. The secondary lining consists of a waterproofing layer encased in a concrete lining cast on a shutter which, once the concrete has cured, could be partially collapsed. It was then moved forward from the completed section to the next portion due for concreting and expanded back to its full size ready for the concrete to be pumped in behind it to form the next section of lining. The contractor elected to use this innovative technique because it was considered to be quicker and to offer a quality result. This change in tunnel lining from segmental construction to shuttered in-situ concrete marks both the change from bored running tunnel to station tunnel, and also the

change in contractor, from the DSJV of the tunnel works to the BFKJV responsible for the Farringdon Station works. On the western side of Farringdon Station the twin running tunnels resume to Royal Oak, about 6.8km away to the west. Now that the tunnelling works have been concluded, the focus of the project will switch to fitting out the stations and tunnels ready for the initiation of the train service. The track will be of concrete slab form throughout the tunnels. Construction will commence with a base layer of concrete cast in the bottom of the tunnel ring to create a flat surface, and the slab track will be constructed upon this. But that’s where the tunnelling stops, and railway construction begins. For Elizabeth, and her seven sisters, their job is done.


Rail Engineer • September 2015


ERTMS A Reality Check


he many articles on ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System), in both this magazine and other publications covering the rail industry, have generally reported that the system with its component parts of ETCS (European Train Control system), GSM-R and the ETML (the still to come traffic management level) will yield significant benefits in both reliability and capacity with a considerable cost saving in the longer term. No-one however with even a modicum of insider knowledge will claim that the route to implementation has been easy. Railways across Europe have struggled with the technology, the operation and the funding. The objective is simple: to have a single command and control (i.e. signalling) system from a multi-supplier base that is fully interoperable such that trains can seamlessly cross borders between countries without having to change locomotives and with a common man machine interface for both signallers and drivers. Achieving this goal has, however, been fraught for many reasons, some of which are listed: »» A reluctance to change long standing operating rules and signalling principles inside individual countries; »» Initially getting the signalling design and supply industry to work together in the production of compatible products although this is no longer such a major issue; »» The logistics of fitting and retro-fitting rolling stock with the necessary train and cab equipment; »» The challenge of producing reliable and robust software that can be backward compatible with earlier versions; »» The protracted approval process within the regime that has emerged for safety assessment and independent safety verification although this is now better defined and understood than previously; »» The high cost of implementation and the difficulty in producing a convincing business case. All these are significant issues and some well known UK commentators have recently questioned whether the whole ERTMS programme is capable of delivering the stated

benefits and in the time frame that many railways would like to see. These reports are contributing to a growing nervousness as to the wisdom of committing significant funds to continue the rollout. In the UK, the ORR (Office of Rail and Road) recently invited Rail Engineer, with its base of informed knowledge, to discuss the ongoing situation. With the declared intention of government to cut back on all aspects of public expenditure, rail must be expected to take its share of this. When assessing the priorities, where will ERTMS/ETCS sit in the fight for funds?

The current situation The UK has been slow to adopt ERTMS with only the Cambrian Line in service as an early deployment scheme (i.e. a trial) and from which many lessons have been learned. Two dominant ones emerged: firstly that the signalling rules imposed by ETCS with the version of software used for the project meant the operation of the railway was more constrained when compared to RETB (Radio Electronic Token Block) which it replaced and, secondly, that the retro-fitting of rolling stock is something to be avoided if possible. Subsequently, a section of the Hertford Loop has been used for interoperability tests between different suppliers’ equipment, with good results within the scope of the trials. These are now expanded to test the ATO (Automatic Train Operation) overlay intended for use on the core section of Thameslink.

Elsewhere, plans exist for the deployment on the Great Western main line (GWML) to Bristol and South Wales - but only as a Level 2 overlay to the existing signalling system primarily because of problems in getting sufficient rolling stock (particularly freight) fitted. The project is still only at GRIP 1-3 stage, which makes it highly likely commissioning will be delayed beyond the 2019 target date. The more radical project is to equip the East Coast main line (ECML) with ERTMS such that lineside signals can be removed - initially between Kings Cross and Peterborough and subsequently northwards. This is a real challenge for both Network Rail and the train operators and is likely to include more significant changes to the technical and operational rules, widespread fitting of trains, plus staff training and maintenance issues. The projected date for achieving this is 2020 but there is a growing lack of confidence as to whether it will be met. In Europe, deployment is more widespread with many of the later high-speed lines being equipped and operating successfully with ERTMS Level 2. The earlier EC Directive, mandating that all TEN-T (Trans European Networks) must be equipped with ERTMS technology when renewal is due, has been expanded to cover all lines. Only a few countries so far, namely Denmark, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland (standard gauge lines) and Norway have declared an intention to fit their entire network with ETCS technology, primarily as a renewal-driven strategy. Denmark is leading the way with this but is encountering problems with supplier integration, the lack of technical resources, rewriting the rulebook and the everpresent funding issues. Some countries (e.g. the Netherlands) will expand ETCS to most lines but will stop short of equipping the more rural routes. No European country has found deployment easy and many

Rail Engineer • September 2015


Testing a new on-train installation. have had to make significant changes to the application design in the course of installation because of technical and software shortcomings. Despite all this, there remains a positive view that ERTMS is the way forward and, even in Germany where acceptance has been slow because of the installed base of their own train control design, there are now plans to fit ERTMS on routes that carry through traffic.

The goal of interoperability To some, interoperability is a political rather than a technical objective. It does require cooperation between countries. A major issue has been the insistence by some member states that ERTMS must allow them to perpetuate longstanding country-specific operating practices, thus requiring options to be incorporated into what should be an otherwisestandard system. The programme has also required collaboration between suppliers, which has had its challenges since it involves the makers of both ETCS and GSM-R equipment for both infrastructure and train-borne systems. When considering the number of suppliers in all these categories, it is a considerable matrix of firms and no wonder that the interworking required has proved to be difficult. Add to this both hardware and software factors and the progressive implementation of updates and changes, one can see that it needs a strong co-ordinating body to keep this under control and to ensure that all suppliers follow the same course. The Brussels based ERTMS Users Group exists to encourage and cajole countries to adopt unified technical specifications and operating procedures. The ERA and a host of other organisations - TEN-T Executive Agency, EIM, CER, UNISIG & UNIFE, GSM-R Industry Group, UIC - all have contributions to make in defining how ERTMS will be provided across Europe.

These bodies represent the suppliers, the train companies, the freight operators and the infrastructure managers, so getting a consensus amongst the many vested interests was always going to be an uphill struggle. Nonetheless progress has been made and trains do cross borders without having to change locomotives, thus proving that interoperability can be achieved. However, it remains a challenge, the biggest problem being the development of successive versions of the system software. Even when Baseline 3 Release 2 is finally approved, there will never be a situation when the software is stable for all time. Changes will continue to emerge but the vital issue is the need for backward compatibility to give assurance that equipment already in service can continue to perform in a safe and effective manner.

The GSM-R dilemma The track-to-train radio, known as GSM-R, is a twenty year old design utilising 2G technology that is now largely superseded in the public offering of mobile services. Roll out has been more successful than ETCS with most countries, including the UK, now having nationwide GSM-R networks. Primarily these have been to replace ageing voice radio networks but the concept of using GSM-R for the conveyance of ETCS messages was there from the outset. The advent of packet switching (GPRS), following extensive testing on the UK Hertford Loop, will give much needed extra data capacity to ensure ETCS can operate in busy areas. The UK will, in all likelihood, go it alone with introducing GPRS if the European authorities are slow to sign off the final specifications and approval for its use as part of ERTMS. However, 2G technology is old and will not be supported in the long term future. Guarantees exist to ensure the supply of equipment until

2025 but, after that, commercial considerations will determine how long the supply base will exist. Some thought has been given as to what will replace GSM-R and the UIC has a working party looking at the possible solution. This, in basic terms, is similar to other problems the rail industry often faces: how to cope with rapid technology change in the commercial world when past practice dictates railways need systems to have a 20-30 year life. The railways were fortunate to get an allocated band of radio frequencies back in the 1990s but a consensus view is that no such allocation will be available for whatever replaces GSM-R. Some people are advocating a 4G solution (sometimes known as LTE) but more enlightened advice suggests they wait for 5G, now in the conceptual design stage. This seems to be more of a functional rather than technical spec and envisages the use of multiple radio applications including public mobile networks, private networks and Wi-Fi combining to provide the connectivity required. Many of the features envisaged will include the requirements of ERTMS and the data capacity will be huge. Safety and security integrity will be built in and anyone who believes this to be a pipedream should go and look at the PTC (Positive Train Control) system being implemented in the USA where the transmission between trains and shore is provided by something akin to this. Even when a decision is made, the changeover from GSM-R to its replacement will be a logistics nightmare. One can visualise the building of a duplicate infrastructure which itself will require a considerable outlay, but the fitting of trains with duplicated equipment could be difficult as space envelopes are invariably tight. Much of the rolling stock in service now or being built will still be around when the radio change has to happen.


Rail Engineer • September 2015

Realising the savings

Fitting the trains As hinted earlier, equipping the trains with ETCS kit can be difficult and expensive and many railways across Europe have been staggered at how much this can cost. Fortunately, in the UK, the situation is looking somewhat better. Since 2012, all new passenger rolling stock has had to be ETCS compatible so that when the time comes to equip any particular fleet, the cabling, power supply, antenna and space provision for the cab display and on-train equipment should make final fitment relatively easy. Particularly challenging are multiple units with end corridor connections that make the driving compartment rather cramped. The Class 158 units on the Cambrian showed how difficult it can be with the price per unit being in the region of £1 million after design and proving costs were appropriated. For GWML, it is understood the new IEP trains and the Crossrail EMUs to be used on the London suburban services should all arrive from the factory with ETCS fitted. If lineside signals are to be retained, other trains operating over the route need not have ETCS in the short term. Similarly, on Thameslink, the new Siemens units which will be the only trains operating over the central core section will come equipped with ETCS. The ECML is another story as removal of signals means every train operating over the London to Peterborough section must have ETCS. For the IEPs, the Thameslink stock and

the promised replacement for the Class 313 EMUs, this should not be a problem. However retrofitting some HST Power Cars, the Class 91s and associated DVTs, plus some Class 365s for outer suburban services, will be inevitable but with full width cabs, it may not be too difficult. There are also the Open Access operators Grand Central and Hull Trains - to be considered, small in number but they must nonetheless be accommodated Then there is freight and the ‘yellow fleet’ of on-track machinery. The freight companies understandably wish to keep a ‘go anywhere’ strategy for their locomotives but a compromise will need to be reached to produce a restricted fleet for working over sections of the ECML in the short to medium term. Whilst a policy exists for fitting all freight locomotives over the period 2017 - 21, and some early design development work is believed to be underway for each class of traction unit, the funding is not yet agreed and thus no invitations to tender are issued. This is part of the ORR dilemma. The same factors will influence the on-track plant fitment. In short, the longer the ERTMS roll out takes, so the fitting of rolling stock should get easier always assuming the policy of new trains being ETCS compatible remains in place. The oldest DMUs and EMUs will probably be replaced in the next decade and thus the number of trains that will need to be retrofitted will be a decreasing number.

Understanding the technical and operational constraints is one thing, but does ERTMS offer value for money? The ‘business case’ justification has recently been discussed by the IRSE International Technical Committee but the findings were somewhat negative. In generic terms, cab signalling with intelligent traffic management systems should produce a positive investment return on a whole life cost basis but the technical and operational logistics of migration from a conventionally signalled railway are enormous. Only with new build high speed lines and self-contained metro routes that change to CBTC will any generic case be sound. The cost of implementing ERTMS Level 2 on an existing railway is considerable but, with many signalling systems needing to be renewed, it raises the question as to what other options exist. As indicated, some of the smaller countries have committed to a nationwide implementation but none of these are anywhere near achieving this. Renewal of the asset forms the business case but without really studying any alternative. The crunch question is whether or not lineside signals can be removed. If the answer is no, then the business case in the classic sense is non-existent. Having, in effect, two parallel signalling systems has no business logic, yet this is the situation on many railways because of the difficulties of retrofitting rolling stock. Level 2, even without signals, still requires a considerable amount of trackside infrastructure to support the track circuits or axle counters required for train detection and this has always been seen as a shortcoming. Only with Level 3 is this element removed. In many cases, adopting ERTMS is an act of faith with only the EC Directive and the requirement for interoperability providing the real justification.

The elusive Level 3 As defined in the standards, ERTMS comes in three levels: »» Level 1 - an ATP system using balises (not deployed in the UK); »» Level 2 - a system giving both ATP and movement authorities via radio with balises for position reference and with the option of retaining or removing lineside signals. This is the most commonly used application in Europe, including the UK Cambrian line, and is the current spec for future UK schemes; »» Level 3 - a complete radio based system with balises for position reference but with the removal of track circuits / axle counters. It also facilitates moving block that allows trains to ‘close up’ when running at slower speed. With the operational and cost advantages that Level 3 should yield, why has it never really been developed? The answer may be more political/

Rail Engineer • September 2015


ERTMS control room in Bologna.

commercial rather than technical. With industry having invested considerable sums of money in the development of Level 2, the companies wish to see a return on this outlay before venturing down another expensive development that might take years to come to full fruition. One factor that has been a longstanding sticking point is the proving of train completeness. Without a track circuit or axle counter, how can it be proved that a train has not divided en route? This is not a problem for passenger trains with modern braking systems and on-board train data systems, but for freight trains, despite having a continuous brake, the driver may not realise the train has divided if the break is towards the rear of the consist. More significantly, Level 3 will cause a shift in the functional responsibilities and cost between the organisations that make up a typical modern railway. The significant transfer of risk to the TOCs and adapting trains to be much more a part of the signalling control system is a heavy responsibility. Penalties for failure of equipment and delay to other trains will be a minefield and until the ‘rules of operation’ are sorted out, they are likely to be barriers that prevent Level 3 being progressed. All is not lost, however, and maybe the use of Level 3 will be best suited initially to rural lines. This is already happening in Sweden where a system known as Regional ERTMS has been trialled. Under this system, the amount of signalling infrastructure required is minimised and the train crew becomes responsible for monitoring train integrity. For the UK, this would be the ERTMS equivalent of RETB - recently upgraded on remote lines in Scotland - but with the advantage of not having to have special train fitments and captive stock. The predictions in the early 1990s that Level 3 could be deployed on the WCML proved to be wildly optimistic and even now, some 20 years later, there seems no prospect of main line introduction.

The role of Traffic Management

The Digital Railway

Whilst many claims are made that ERTMS can significantly increase train path capacity, it is doubtful that this can be achieved without a parallel traffic management system (TMS) in place. The ETML element of ERTMS is not really off the starting blocks and hence several railways have invested in TMS from suppliers with proprietary products. Much will depend on the mix and service pattern of traffic as to just how much capacity can be gained but TMS may be the vital factor in determining train running optimisation. The UK carried out a ‘beauty parade’ of three such firms earlier this year with the result that Thales was awarded a contract for pilot schemes at Cardiff and Romford. These have yet to be commissioned and are already running late. With the emergence of the ‘Digital Railway’ (see below), all further deployment has been put on hold with the exception of the central core of Thameslink where a further TMS contract has recently been awarded to Hitachi. There is a need to link TMS with ETCS since, to obtain maximum capacity, movement authorities must take account of the position of all trains in a wide area and only traffic management can give this information. A further link with C-DAS (Connected Driver Advisory System) will obtain the optimum train path utilisation, taking into account different stopping patterns, braking characteristics and junction conflicts. Rail organisations are beginning to realise these vital connections but how to manage and co-ordinate the design and supply of the component elements is not yet fully understood. It would be sensible to roll out TMS in parallel with ETCS deployment, even though the benefits of TMS can also be obtained with modern, conventional signalling. However, this would further compound the logistics for the alreadycomplex decisions surrounding the ERTMS programme.

The much-publicised Network Rail banner to create a Digital Railway needs some explanation. Certainly it embraces many different aspects of rail operation covering public interfaces, social media and train operation as well as safety and non-safety applications. One suspects that the heart of it is the requirement to create additional capacity and to improve the operational interfaces for both the travelling public and front line staff. ERTMS has to be part of this big picture and, whilst incorporation is a logical step, it is to be hoped that the Digital Railway team understands the many other technologies that will be critical to ETCS success.


Rail Engineer • September 2015 Critical first deployment

ERTMS in Switzerland. Digital systems have been part of the rail scene for nearly 50 years when the first PCM digital transmission system was commissioned between Euston and Bletchley in 1968. Since then the whole of the railway telecom network and many of the signalling systems have migrated to digital technology. The latest work to upgrade the FTN (the Fixed Telecoms Network) to IP (Internet Protocol) operation - the FTNx - is all part of the digital revolution. Thus the railway is well placed to take advantage of digital bearers that it owns courtesy of NRT (Network Rail Telecom), for which a recent article described the technology and value of this asset.

The alternatives If not ERTMS, then what else? As one IRSE ITC member said recently, there will be no alternative because industry is going to make only the ETCS product for main line railways. Whilst this statement may be true for cab based signalling systems, there will always be the continuance of traditional signalling with ‘lights on sticks’. In the UK, the development of modular signalling with standardised components and ‘plug and play’ cabling may well be expanded for the re-signalling of secondary routes although the cable element, with the requirement for totally accurate measurement of distance, may revert to traditional cable methods. Several lines have either been implemented or are in the course of conversion. It has many advantages since it requires no rule book change and avoids the problem of train fitment. It is easy to visualise that this technology will be around for a long time with an expected service life of around 30 years, potentially undermining the business case for ERTMS introduction. Capacity is rarely a problem on such lines and, with the right signal spacing, headways of five minutes are perfectly possible. It must

be remembered, however, that the adoption of ERTMS is now EC policy for even secondary routes and countries will have to make a case for not doing so when signalling renewals are due. Only on the main trunk routes (including high-speed lines), where speeds will exceed 125mph, does enhanced protection and cabbased signalling become a necessity, and as such ETCS is a logical component. With the predicted increase in capacity that ETCS will yield, the system is also appropriate for busy commuter routes and, as in the central area of Thameslink, the option for an ATO overlay will further enhance the benefit. Just how much capacity gain can be achieved is open to debate with claims of 40% perhaps being somewhat optimistic, but 20% should be achievable on routes where most trains have the same service pattern. If conventional signalling is already optimised for a train service, then obtaining even 20% is unlikely.

The ORR is right to question the timing and scope of the current ERTMS programme. The recently declared intention of Network Rail to speed up the deployment through the Digital Railway initiative is to be applauded since, if the advantages to be gained are as claimed, then the programme should proceed with all possible momentum. The risk is that Network Rail does not have a good track record for the timely and efficient delivery of conventional signalling systems, especially where new technology is deployed. Partly this is due to a critical shortage of experienced staff, partly because of the time taken to approve new equipment (viz East Sussex and the use of a plc for level crossing control) and partly because of the complex matrix of responsibilities between client, consultant, contractor and sub-contractors. For ERTMS, and particularly the ETCS component, the crunch test will be both the Thameslink core and the ECML deployments. If these go well and produce the expected operational and cost benefits, then the dominos can be expected to fall and ERTMS provision will gather pace. If, however, one or both of these schemes fails to deliver to budget, timescale or the anticipated benefits, then the whole ERTMS programme could, at worst, be put on hold until confidence of successful delivery can be established. Taking into account all the factors described, the ORR would be well advised to closely scrutinise the progress of these projects on a very frequent basis so that no nasty surprises emerge when it is too late to back pedal. Fingers crossed all round, I guess. Acknowledgements are made to Ian Maxwell from the ORR for initiating the investigation and to Francis How, chief executive of the IRSE, for some industry and personal observations.

Rail Engineer • September 2015


Building on experience


sustainable workforce is essential for the growth and development of any business. But, how do you ensure a business can grow and develop whilst having the confidence to engage with the inexperience of youth? In common with much of the industry, Warwickshire-based Fenix Signalling has grappled with just that problem but feels it has come up with a solution. This is to use the skills and experience of its senior personnel, with combined industry experience of more than 100 years, to support the career development of new starters. Since the entire rail sector is short of signalling engineers, new talent is going to have to come from outside the industry. Paul Green, the company’s Testing Manager and Coordinator, has a long commitment to the development of test and commissioning skills and has put his full energy behind the need to find the workforce of tomorrow. He commented: “Despite possessing industry professionals that boast glowing CVs and exemplary experience, we will actively encourage newcomers into the industry as well as employing young designers.” In setting up to train its own intake of young engineers, Fenix has widened its brief and now offers training to other companies as well. This won’t be just for youngsters, as Eddie Murphy, head of projects and development, explained: “We are looking to bolster our existing unique training offering using our business model to help drive up standards across the rail industry, particularly in all aspects of signalling engineering and design. Our training is tailored for each audience to ensure they understand the safety critical issues and complexities of signalling and can anticipate

and respond during tender, implementation and commissioning. “Currently, we offer bespoke training across all sectors including civil engineering and other non-specialist companies engaged on schemes where signalling is part of the overall project. The training is delivered over three days, two days in a classroom setting - which can be on the client’s site - and one day practical work off-site looking at different interlockings and other signalling specific equipment. From this we have developed a 1.5 day course for Executive Management which has no previous exposure to the ‘black-art’ that is signalling engineering.”

Making inroads This investment in training and people is paying off. Despite operating with a relatively small but highly-skilled team, Fenix has already caught the eye of many of the industry’s heavyweights. The company is currently retained for the redevelopment of Banbury Depot, which has been derelict since the 1960s. The project, which is being delivered on behalf of Buckingham Group for Chiltern Railways, will continue into 2017. Fenix is involved in Grip 4 Single Option Signalling Development and Grip 5 Detailed Signalling Design to integrate the depot control system, made by

Pintsch Tiefenbach, with Zonegreen’s depot personnel protection system and also the interface to Network Rail. The second and third phases of this project will include installation, test and commissioning. Other clients of the fledgling business include Carillion for whom it has worked on the M8 project (relocation of bridge cabling and signal re-design), Telent Technology Services Ltd and MPI, the UK’s largest resource provider for testing and commissioning. Fenix is also talking to other industry-leading contractors at home and in Europe. So all the hard work is starting to bear fruit. Sue Grant, head of business operations, said: “We are confident of securing a significant portfolio of work going forward. Our flexibility and ability to adapt to varying types and scales of projects, along with investment in a multifunctional expert workforce, is the key to success. For example, our professional services team brings world-wide ETCS project and product expertise that will be increasingly relevant as the new systems are introduced across the UK network. “For that reason I believe we have a unique professional service offering.”


Rail Engineer • September 2015

The S&T Delivery Challenge T he railway signal and telecommunications sector is now more diverse than it has ever been. Operating on an international scale, a multitude of organisations have to cooperate in the business of delivering new schemes that requires a comprehensive and mutual understanding by all players as to roles and responsibilities. It doesn’t always go smoothly, and there are too many examples of projects being delayed or overspent, thus giving the profession a tarnished name. So how is it supposed to work and where are the pitfalls that can cause things to go wrong? One person well placed to answer this question is Mark James, now the managing director (rail) at Linbrooke Services but latterly head of signal engineering for Network Rail’s Infrastructure Projects business. He has also had previous delivery experience at Atkins, other supply chain companies and Railtrack, and thus has a host of experience on many sides of the industry.

The Linbrooke profile As with many companies that have entered the rail business since privatisation, Linbrooke was engaged in a completely different area of technology before seeing rail as an opportunity for expansion. Started in 2002, it began life in the sub-sea cables and jointing business, a sometimes-hazardous operation and one of only three companies in the UK offering that service.

Headed up by Lee Hallam, with a background in the Royal Marines and the Police, the company ethos is to manage its activities in a controlled and well planned way where mission criticality, as would be expected in the defence industry, is all important. The opportunity for Linbrooke to use its cable jointing expertise in another discipline came about in 2003 when Thales, engaged to roll out the FTN (Fixed Telecom Network) for Network Rail in some areas, was stretched in meeting its fibre jointing commitments. Thus a company with cable expertise in danger prone locations was welcomed in as a sub-contractor. From this small beginning, Linbrooke has built up its expertise in the rail sector, whilst continuing its presence in sub-sea cable activities but also expanding into power distribution networks and engineering training. With a headquarters in Sheffield, it now has regional premises in Swindon, Birmingham, Manchester, York and Glasgow. Staff now number around 350 of which 150 are in telecommunications, 50 on signalling and 150 associated with LV/HV power distribution.

Delivering S&T projects

Since rail privatisation, getting new signalling systems designed, built and delivered has been something of a challenge. Some projects have gone well but many haven’t. There are many reasons for this: »» Major changes and rationalisation within the major supplier organisations; »» Difficulties in understanding the rapid changes to the technology; »» Getting the right balance between in house and external resources; »» Finding the right organisational structure within firstly Railtrack and now Network Rail; »» The emergence of a formalised safety approvals regime that at times has been less than pragmatic; »» The failure to recruit and train new staff into the engineering profession and the retirement and often enforced redundancy of older skilled knowledgeable staff. Many of these factors are now being put right but there is a lot of catching up to do. Companies such as Linbrooke have recognised the weak points and have used their own initiative to gain expertise in areas where gaps are all too apparent, and to then provide services that can help projects get back on track.


Testing equipment at High Wycombe.

Rail Engineer • September 2015


Linbrooke's Swindon office.

Focussing on telecommunications initially, the ongoing rollout of the fibre-based FTN network needed an urgent boost to ensure delivery targets were met. Linbrooke undertook the laying, jointing and termination of fibre cables. This, in itself, was a steep learning curve as the tasks were essentially trackside with all the safety disciplines that go with that. Getting to grips with the PTS, COSS and Engineering Supervisor roles, plus developing a full understanding of the taking of possessions and when work can or cannot be carried out whilst trains are running, was something that Linbrooke recognised as vital. From this, the company has built up an exemplary safety and delivery record. Putting the cable infrastructure in place is one thing, but then there comes the challenge of migrating circuits from the old to the new systems. The main telecom suppliers will have provided the transmission racks at the main telecom centres but access to bandwidth has now to be provided at trackside locations. Very often records of circuit allocations can be old and out of date with surveys needing to be carried out to establish exactly what is what. It is a boring, thankless task but has to be done. Linbrooke, seeing the opportunity, undertook to do this work for some sections of the FTN, working with others to ensure an effective changeover. In 2011, Network Rail awarded the York IECC telephone concentrator contract

to Linbrooke which resulted in the company needing to build new FTN nodes, one of the first contractors to be tasked with this type of work. From there, it was a small step to entrust Linbrooke with a major telecom project. The result was a contract to manage circuit provision including the massive changeover of SPTs on the core section of Thameslink when the London Bridge and New Cross Gate control areas were transferred from London Bridge power box to Three Bridges ROC. The project will extend eventually to Cricklewood and St Albans on the Midland Main Line with similar transfer of control to Three Bridges The NRT project to upgrade FTN to FTNx (the IP based network) is progressing well and, in partnership with Cisco, which is providing the main switch and router equipment, Linbrooke is carrying out all the cable and power supply work for the Bromsgrove Ring, south west of Birmingham. To implement digital devices such as VoIP phones (Voice over IP), copper cables are needed to connect to the lineside ‘point of presence’, and this involves providing Cat 5 structured cabling. Digital device connections are distance-limited to 100 metres which demonstrates just one of the design constraints that have to be considered. The provision of power supplies at the trackside and elsewhere is often an after-thought and, recognising this, Linbrooke has its own Rail Power team which was featured in issue 128 (June 2015). With all of this expertise, Linbrooke is now a Tier 1 contractor for rail telecom systems.

Provision support As main line signalling system equipment design and manufacture is now concentrated in only a handful of companies - Siemens, Alstom, Hitachi/Ansaldo and, to a lesser extent in the UK, Bombardier - it again is dependent on smaller companies to provide the cabling and power supplies that are essential for a successful project. Linbrooke is one such company that has expanded into this arena and has a partnership in place with Siemens. A significant delivery under this arrangement has been the GN/GE line. The Siemens modular signalling system was chosen for this important secondary route but the supporting trackside infrastructure was in need of considerable expansion. The FTN was an obvious choice for information distribution but needed to be adapted for the distribution of data to signals, points and level crossings. With its telecom expertise, Linbrooke was well placed to take on this role and, before long, was entrusted with the majority of the system’s power supply provision as well. The project has since been commissioned - see issue 128 (June 2015) for the overall scope - with the tasks of cabling and power barely getting a mention. Such is life. Signalling support contracts are likely to be a ready source of income for the likes of Linbrooke in the months and years ahead. Neither the big signal suppliers, nor the in-house resource within Network Rail, have the capability to undertake such work in the volumes predicted for the roll out of ERTMS and secondary line upgrades.


Rail Engineer • September 2015

Behavioural training is part of the package and this is based on military lines. Once in active service, success criteria are measured every week by means of a briefing / debriefing process. The new signalling design office set up in Swindon is also being used to provide learning opportunities for people from other companies. One such take up has been some of Network Rail’s recently employed testing staff who, in the course of their jobs, are seen to need design experience and understanding.

Future predictions

On-site at High Wycombe.

Linbrooke has gone on to develop a turnkey small to medium scale signalling renewals capability in the last three years in parallel with their support to others. Whilst relying previously upon supply chain partners to achieve the full portfolio of activities, Linbrooke has, in the last year, taken the opportunity to create both a UK signalling design office and a testing and commissioning capability. The design office operates as an independent IRSE licensed signalling ‘design house’ consultant with its own client base but also providing an integrated design capability to the existing Linbrooke power and telecommunications design and engineering teams. By building a testing and commissioning resource, the company is able to offer a ‘turnkey’ service for its own project activities but is also able to collaborate efficiently with other resource suppliers, including Network Rail’s own internal resources, so as to deliver the appropriate staffing level needed for both Linbrooke’s and Network Rail’s project portfolio. Other expansions foreseen by Linbrooke as necessary for turnkey offerings are training and resourcing (see below) and obtaining a partner relationship with an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) technology partner so as to achieve a full design, supply and implementation service for future renewals projects. An initial project offering to Network Rail is currently being assessed. With all this in place, resources from all parts of the signalling renewal market, both within the UK and overseas, can benefit from a co-ordinated approach to deliver projects into the future.

Training and resources The S&T industry as a whole has a shortage of engineers and technicians. Much talk goes on about how this can be rectified and some signs of activity are emerging. The work of NSARE (the National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering) and the taking on of apprentices by Network Rail and others is to be applauded but, even now, it may not be enough to support the ongoing demand. Linbrooke, proactive as ever, has grabbed the bull by the horns and established a National Training Academy at its Sheffield site. This is a facility to be used by all parts of the industry (including Linbrooke’s clients and even, in some cases, competitors) which are developing the skills of their workforce. Its origins stem from the need to provide resettlement for personnel leaving the armed forces and it gained MoD approval for this back in 2005. Since then, a desire has emerged to recruit and train young people from the Sheffield area, often from truant backgrounds, and offer them a worthwhile role in a profession that needs all the skilled staff it can get. The training focuses on telecoms, power and signalling and all trainees have sessions in all the engineering disciplines so as to become ‘rounded’ engineers in the future. Many people who previously served in the military arrive with skills that are akin to railway S&T, so it is more of a conversion exercise rather than starting from square one. School leavers and other youngsters generally have no engineering knowledge so have to learn the trade from first principles. The learning portfolio is thus organised to whatever level is required.

Whilst this article unashamedly features Linbrooke, the intention has been to draw out the many facets of delivering S&T (and power provision) projects to the present day UK railway structure. This requires companies to have imagination in what they can deliver, to be realistic in what can be achieved and to understand the complexity of the supply chain in which they would have to function. Co-operation and partnership with others is essential. For Linbrooke, the business expansion has been controlled and logical. They have noticed the areas of expertise where shortfalls were evident and taken logical and careful steps to fill the gaps. For the future, the company intends to quadruple its capability in signalling whilst retaining its expertise in telecoms. The company’s familiarity with LV/HV power systems for the Distribution Network Operators (as an accredited independent connections provider) may well lead to an entry into the 25kV overhead line electrification area, which is another discipline where expertise is in short supply. As to the industry’s capability to deliver projects successfully, the recent pausing of some high-profile schemes by government must be a lesson to all - that unless one has the right organisation and skill base in place, failure will occur all too frequently.

Renowned for delivering mission critical network infrastructure solutions, Linbrooke develop collaborative working partnerships with all of our clients – providing exceptional time and cost savings.

Telecommunications • Power • Signalling • Training • Resources Design • Installation • Test • Commission

Linbrooke Services’ Signalling team is continuing to expand, develop and deliver highquality design and build signalling projects throughout the UK rail network. Services Offered: Core Engineering Services:

Project Engineering, Design, Construction and Test & Commissioning of:

• Solutions & scheme development, feasibility, survey

• Mechanical locking alterations

• Reed FDM systems

• BR 850 freewire interlocking

• ATP (incl. GWML & Chilterns)

• BR WR E10k freewire interlocking

• Level Crossing equipment Circuits

• SSI interlocking hardware

• Thales & Frauscher Axle Counter systems

• Westpac Mk1 through 4 geographical

• Signalling power supplies

• GEC geographical interlocking

• DC, audio frequency (analogue and digital) track circuits

& consultancy including assessments, feasibility studies & RAMS studies • Application of ‘Safe by Design’ principles through development and implementation • Turnkey project delivery, conception to completion, including all Power, Telecommunications and Civils sub systems and in house delivery

• ETCS • CBTC (fixed block and driverless moving block)

• IRSE licensed design, installation & project engineering integration & management

• LUL air frames and LUL freewire • LRT freewire and Programmable Logic Controllers

• IRSE licensed SWTH, SMTH and G110 management and delivery with extensive equipment knowledge

• Control Panel and MMI VDU concept design

For more information on our telecoms, power and signalling capabilities, please call 0844 800 0983 or email


Rail Engineer • September 2015

What happens to the old stuff? but not forgetting the new!


ignalling and control equipment assets normally have an expected service life of around 40 years. During the early stages of an asset’s life, the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are supportive with training for user staff, technical support and spare parts. However, as time progresses, OEMs tend to focus on new products, components become difficult to obtain or obsolete, both OEM and in house expertise reduces, and technical drawings and information become lost. Not all the subsystems suffer the same issues and, while the overall asset condition may be acceptable and not justify re-signalling, there may be equipment whose reliability and performance deteriorates. So what’s to be done? Fortunately, there are companies which specialise in this problematic area. One is Park Signalling Limited (PSL), based in a very impressive two floors of a refurbished mill in Reddish, Stockport, with excellent views across the Pennines. Incidentally, the company is just a short distance away from Reddish South station, on the Stockport-Stalybridge Line, famous for having only one train a week in one direction! Don’t let this stop you visiting, however, as Reddish North is a more normal station with a regular service to Manchester Piccadilly. Even better, why not visit on a Friday morning via Reddish South and be one of the estimated 26 people a year who use the station, and then walk back down the hill to Heaton Chapel? The company was formed in 2000 by key staff from the Manchester office of Alstom Signalling, and used the name Park after Trafford Park. Today, many of the engineers are still with PSL so the Company has many years’ experience of signalling systems which is supplemented by a number of associates and specialists who are called upon to provide expertise. PSL operates in three main markets - extending useful life and enhancing performance, system upgrades and enhancements, and designing bespoke products and systems. The company has the capability to reverse engineer, replicate the form, fit and function of the existing equipment and remove obsolescence issues by using retro-engineering skills. PSL combines the service of supporting and designing new facilities and technology into old systems, while

at the same time looking to the future, with developing innovative systems and products for both main line and metro.

SSI support Many of the PSL engineers were responsible for the original design and development of SSI (solid state interlockings) for GEC/ALSTOM. They continue to design, develop and manufacture ‘smart tools’ that support and improve SSI, including test and repair. Knowing the design of SSI from first principles, combined with extensive specialist equipment resources, allows PSL to identify and diagnose the root cause of reliability and performance issues. SSI accounts for approximately 45% of UK interlockings and is used throughout the world. It is highly likely to be in use for many years to come, despite being a 30 year old electronic and software product. The typical life for this sort of technology in other industries is 10 years, so it is vital that the support that PSL provides is available for many years to come. One aspect of SSI that heavily impacts on signalling availability is that the data links are remarkably tolerant of problems and performance issues which can be masked by the SSI diagnostic processor which only reports a complete failure. There are standalone equipment systems available that monitor missing telegrams, but the systems require a technician to be present to read and assess the resultant output. ‘REMITdetect’ is PSL’s solution to monitor and report missing telegrams to a remote computer via a web-based programme. The system provides not only a continuous count of missing telegrams but also a count for individual telegram addresses, which is particularly helpful in diagnosing the location of specific data link faults. This sort of facility is expected and standard on any modern computerbased system and is now available for good old SSI.


SSI data links are notoriously difficult to fault find, particularly when there are multiple faults present such as following a lightning strike. The current Network Rail maintenance regime requires that SSI data links are tested on a regular basis, which is expensive and time consuming. ‘REMOSdl’ is a tool to monitor the baseband links and (potentially) eliminate the need to carry out regular checking. It provides faulting assistance when data link problems occur, allowing faster restoration of the link, and monitors the ring actual data link performance, enabling viewing, analysing and recording, locally. Recordings can be wirelessly transmitted to allow more in-depth remote viewing, analysis and recording, via the ‘REMOSdl Viewer’. PSL provides a data link modelling service where designs are theoretically tested for performance and robustness where the actual performance can be verified later, with the data link smart tools. Whilst this service is most useful in eliminating causes of faults, it is invaluable in pre-empting possible problems resulting from data link changes during system upgrades and/or new schemes. REMITdetect and REMOSdl complement the SSI Data Link Analyser (SLA). This is a PC-based test tool that also provides the means to observe and record all messages being transferred on a Data Link in real-time. It has become the recognised data link analysis tool over the last decade. Fibre optical cables have long been used in railway telecoms networks for the higher order SDH (Synchronous Digital Hierarchy) multiplex transmission systems carrying many gigabits of data. These networks carry SSI links and are able to provide diverse paths for the A and B SSI circuits. However SSI has very sensitive propagation time delay, which other systems carried over the telecoms network are not subject to. Hence, what is a fault to the SSI may not be

Rail Engineer • September 2015 picked up by the telecoms network diagnostics and monitoring. REMOSdl can diagnose such changes in circuit delay as a result of alterations to the path length due to diverse routing within the telecoms network. Even with using telecoms based fibre optic networks for the higher order LDT (Long Distance Terminal) links, SSI has to be multiplexed down to a 64kbit/s connection for the data link distribution over twisted copper pair cables. The conventional copper data links are highly susceptible to interference and attenuation so PSL has developed an Optical Data Link Module (ODLM). This maintains plug compatibility with the original Data Link Module and allows the final data link to be connected by fibre. While this may appear wasteful to a telecoms engineer, it removes the conventional copper-wired data links which are highly susceptible to interference, attenuation and theft. The product has only recently been developed and, whilst UK benefits are obvious and will be exploited, there is already keen interest from countries with high instances of lightning strikes. The original SSI Technicians Terminal from the 80s, with its green monochrome display and command text-based menu, is like something from another age (which it is in computer terms!) and is now obsolete. PSL has developed a modern replacement Technicians Terminal for up to six SSIs. This uses standard commercial off the shelf components, but is directly compatible at the electrical interfaces and replicates the feel and functionality of the original terminal with a modern graphical colour user interface. The Technicians Terminal Replacement supports SSI logging and provides an external clock interface, and allows control and fault lists to be printed. It allows a user to perform all the functionality of the old Terminal through a user-friendly means of applying and removing technician controls including the stop/starting of interlockings, route barring, aspect disconnection and temporary approach control. The system of PSL smart tools supplements the capability of existing SSIbased asset watch systems to detect and identify faulty data components, including data link modules, isolating transformers, surge protection units and cable faults and incorrect terminations.



Not just SSI or main line

PSL has life extended and enhanced other systems as well as SSI and one example is the Radio Electronic Token Block (RETB) which will still be used in some parts of the network for many years to come and was needed to interface with TPWS (Train Protection & Warning System). Currently, PSL is contracted by Telent to perform RETB works for the Far North Split contract for Network Rail.

Improved performance and reliability of Data Links ReMOSdl viewer

REMITdetect REMOSdl REMOSdl VIEWER New Data Link smart-tools from Park Signalling will: Continuously monitor, measure and report the logical performance at the interlocking Measure, capture and communicate the physical characteristics along the DL Enable detailed analysis of DL conditions when fault-finding and/or designing Simplify the process and improve the effectiveness of DL remedial and routine maintenance Greatly reduce “Delay Minutes” from pre-emptive and speedier diagnosis of faults For detailed information please see:

REMITdetect assesses the overall quality and performance of the data link - logical

REMOSdl measures and records actual characteristics; waveforms, voltages and timings - physical

Delivering engineered Solutions

Park Signalling Limited, 3rd Floor, Houldsworth Mill Houldsworth Street, Reddish, Stockport, SK5 6DA Tel: +44 (0)161 219 0161 Email: Web:


Rail Engineer • September 2015

The Trackside Radio Control Module (TRCM) forms part of the Trackside Radio Control Unit (TRCU) which interfaces TPWS with RETB signalled areas. The TRCM ‘listens’ to the RETB radio traffic, using up to two radio receivers, in order to detect tokens transmitted for the particular sections that the TPWS equipment is protecting. Once an appropriate token has been detected, the TRCU will suppress the TPWS trackside equipment for a pre-determined time period to permit the train to pass over the train stop without being unnecessarily tripped. PSL supports metro railways as well as main line. As part of an extensive network extension programme and signalling system upgrade for Manchester Metrolink, a temporary method of controlling junctions was required. PSL provided three temporary signalling interlockings to control Trafford Bar, Irk Junction and the single line at Dean Lane. Although the interlocking function was implemented using conventional relays, the PSL design was novel in that treadles were used for tram detection and the existing Vehicle Recognition System (VRS) was used to call the signalled routes from the tram. Treadle and conflict management was implemented using a Siemens programmable logic controller. The system was designed, manufactured and deployed within six months. It has proved very successful and has been in service for over two years.

And it’s not just about old stuff! PSL's own concept and innovation ideas include methods of controlling train movements using new technology and ways of working. These could be used to supplement the digital rail ETCS vision, for degraded mode operation or lightly used secondary routes. Verbal Exchange Radio Block (VERB) minimises, as far as reasonably possible, the quantity, complexity and cost of specialist railway signalling equipment fitted to track and trains, while maintaining safe, efficient railway operation. 2 optical DLMs.

Tech terminal MTO3. The VERB concept is based on communications solely via audio channel radio and data channel to the limited trackside infrastructure. One of the most unique systems in PSL’s portfolio is Virtual Lineside Signalling (VLS) ‘signals as pictures’ - which is a low-cost centralised signalling system with affordable operational enhancements primarily suited to, but not exclusively for, secondary and lightlyused routes. This is achieved by using encrypted pictures, propagating central integrity out to commercialoff-the-shelf train-borne in-cab signalling equipment. Lineside signals and conventional train detection and train protection would be replaced with Radio Frequency Identification tags and/or GPRS to significantly reduce lineside infrastructure installation and maintenance requirements, and their costs, whilst increasing track availability. There are circa 2,200km of secondary and rural track in the UK network, much of which would not normally attract enhancement investment. VLS would save somewhere in the region of £120,000 per kilometre in investment costs and £1,200 per kilometre annually on maintenance costs. So, if just one-fifth of Britain’s secondary and rural lines were signalled with VLS, there would be a saving of £57.3 million over the first five years when compared to conventional resignalling.

Track safety As well as the smart tools for extending the life of systems, PSL has developed a number of innovative products including the very welcome introduction of new technology for track safety. ‘Vigil’ is a sentinel system for user worked crossings. Conforming to the Overlay Miniature Stop Lights for User Worked Crossing specification, Vigil ‘eavesdrops’ on the SSI data detecting track circuit occupation and operates the crossing miniature stop lights and audible alarm. Event logging and status reporting is also provided for an audit trail. Optonator® provides a cost-effective track worker protection system, delivering a clear warning of approaching vehicles. This simple, completely independent, battery-powered product uses a fibre optic cable to detect approaching vehicles and remotely alerts track workers via an alarm siren and flashing siren. It is a simple battery powered, hand-carried solution that provides protection against runaways, addresses procedural errors and rules out misunderstandings. Its continuous monitoring provides failsafe vehicle detection utilising wireless technology effective over 800 metres and is an effective alternative to conventional detonators providing advance warning of possession incursion directly at the work site.

Other markets? Whilst PSL have a strong presence and reputation in the UK and business is developing overseas, in particular Australia and Indonesia, the company is keen to continue to develop and provide smart tools and techniques to keep the old stuff going, while looking to the future with new ways of working and other markets. Due to the parallels with the rail sector, this will include the power industry that has similar issues. The views from the third floor of the mill in Reddish are spectacular, so why not take the unique journey (9:22 Fridays-only train from Stockport to Stalybridge - one way - and calling at 9:27!) to Reddish South and pay PSL a visit if you have a project requiring innovation and new ideas.

An Alstom Company


Rail Engineer • September 2015

Dealing What’s withimportant dataand what’s not? W

hat do you do when faced with too much information? Perhaps surprisingly, you gather more… The key is to ensure that data becomes meaningful information and that information then becomes useable intelligence.

When dealing with vast quantities of data, the system for collecting, interpreting, sorting and prioritising it is central in enabling data to become useful. Of course, how one goes on to use that intelligence is what really makes the difference.

Information overload? For the team at London Underground Asset Performance, Jubilee, Northern & Piccadilly line (APJNP), a very real case of information overload was developing in its system to record and monitor alerts on systems used for running the railway - and becoming a physical as well as an intellectual problem. “Between the dawn of civilisation through 2003 about 5 exabytes of information was created. Now, that much information is created every 2 days” Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO. With such an explosion in the creation of data in recent years, it is no surprise that data handling systems are having to evolve quickly in order to remain effective. Within the underground network there are many systems critical to running a service and ensuring stations, as well as the line, can operate effectively: sump pumps and groundwater pumping systems, ventilation systems, escalators, lifts and more. Failure, or threat of failure, in a critical system can result in station or line closure, accompanied by the full portfolio of associated troubles - safety issues, delays, service disruption and misery for travellers, not to mention potential expense for operators. APJNP monitors a number of these critical systems at its Fault Reporting Centre (FRC) in order to respond immediately if a system fails.

When a failure or malfunction occurs, an alert is triggered and that information is fed through to the FRC for problem management. The systems connect to more than 100 information management systems, collecting alerts from approximately 15,000 assets. There are over 225,000 individual alerts triggering more than 200,000 alarms per day - 1,800 per minute. The monitoring systems in use have evolved over the last 16 years. Alert data arrives in the Central SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system and other Station Management Systems, via an iMAC computer. Operators then perform a manual check, requiring specific instructions or processes from different asset owners to interpret what alerts mean and which of those alerts are relevant. The ever-growing list of events requires continual scrutiny by operators, to seek out the important information. Until recently, this had to be done by proactively searching on a list of unique search strings. With this ongoing search being carried out manually, there comes a risk of something important being lost. In this case, as the system evolved and the quantity of data being received grew, the monitoring process became almost unmanageable and so the risks continued to grow. The problem was how to spot effectively the relatively rare critical event ‘needle’ in the growing haystack of less important or noncritical events. Data handling specialist Telent was asked to simplify the system.

New system requirements By creating a new Alert Gateway System, Telent aimed to provide a tool for organising and tracking the most important alerts within the APJNP infrastructure. The new system needed to:

»» Alert, inform and guide the operators; »» Prevent unnecessary service activities from affecting operation delays; »» Only present the operator with useful and relevant alerts; »» Use prioritisation to highlight critical alerts; »» Have a detailed response to each alert; »» Allow enough time for the operator to respond; »» Exchange information with enterprise applications. The potential risk of human error would need to be eliminated and the various data sources amalgamated into one, easy-to-use system. Operators really needed to see, at a glance, the priorities for action, with only the relevant alerts being brought to their attention. Open architecture enabling further configuration was also a necessity if the system was to have a long life and cope with additional feeds in the future. A simplified user interface that only required the operator to learn one system would significantly reduce the drain on resources and remove the need for significant training when other assets were added to the system.

Working in partnership The Alert Gateway would be built on open standards, for either Windows or Linux, and be compatible with a wide variety of protocols, thereby offering interconnectivity in line with current industry standards. The first stage was Alert Rationalisation: every possible alert was evaluated in order to ensure that, even though the data from all alerts would be recorded, only those alerts requiring action would be presented to operators. An investigation was also carried out to confirm that alerts were only raised by the most appropriate indicator of the root cause of an abnormal situation. The development process that followed was divided into three phases. Firstly, the central SCADA and iMAC would be integrated into a

Rail Engineer • September 2015

common Graphic User Interface (GUI). Then the existing connected third party assets could be integrated, followed finally by the integration of existing disconnected third party assets. Working closely with Telent at all stages, APJNP operators tested the interface and provided feedback for further development, ensuring the system met their needs. Now, having been installed a few months ago, the new system is operating in tandem with the old system, in order to prove accuracy and reliability before decommissioning of the old system takes place. Simon Pateman, APJNP stations manager, stated: “The new Alert Gateway has been positively received by APJNP staff in the FRC. The driving force behind this project was to simplify the operator’s task of undertaking remote checks. “The future aspiration of the Alert Gateway is to be a central point for all remote monitoring for JNP assets. The Alert Gateway has the capability to expand to meet anticipated future demand. Such expansion could include a PC alert system for operators to ensure that alarms are dealt with in a timely manner and asset specific screens for the asset managers to oversee their asset performance.”

Next steps As Alastair Norman, Telent’s head of asset condition monitoring, explained: “Applying a relatively simple process to a highly complex scenario means the FRC is now in a very different situation; laborious monitoring of vast quantities of data is a thing of the past. An extremely straightforward user interface displaying smaller numbers of colour-coded events ensures that, when critical alerts do occur, they cannot be missed. “The system now in place is flexible, offering room to grow with future needs. It is also a more cost-effective system, placing much lower demands on manpower and desk space. The system can be applied to a wide variety of scenarios, relatively quickly.” Not only have the issues of the old system been resolved, but possibilities for future development have been opened up. The role of the Alert


Gateway is set to grow as more monitoring systems are added in, including the receipt of alerts by text as well as email. The new system can also be configured to raise an alarm when specific combinations of alert occur. This would be exceptionally difficult with a manual searching process. Beyond the basic requirement of highlighting clearly prioritised issues to be resolved, data collection on this scale can, with appropriate analysis in place, provide highly useful information. Trends, cycles, performance usage details and asset behaviour prior to failure can all be monitored, in turn creating a bank of intelligence. This intelligence can inform future Asset Condition Monitoring systems, enabling asset behaviour to be predicted and failures to be prevented. Intelligent maintenance plans can then minimise and often prevent disruption as well as reducing maintenance costs.

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Rail Engineer • September 2015

Data communications made easy

the Westermo way



ll telecoms networks are made up of various layers. A typical network will be made up of a core layer carrying terabits of data per second between major nodes, with a number of lower access layers typically carrying gigabits per second.

At the bottom of the layers is the sub-access layer, sometimes referred to as the ‘last mile’ or the customer premises network. In the modern home, this could be a wired or wireless network connecting with computers, printers, scanners, entertainment and domestic devices. However, in a railway telecoms network, the sub-access layer can be very challenging to provide as it may be many miles long and have a very harsh and hostile electromagnetic interference (EMI) environment as well as a safety-related or safety-critical service role. The servicecarrying requirements are getting ever more complex, and what may have at one time been a simple audio tone modem circuit for carrying data has today been replaced by networks of Ethernet switches and IP routers. Trains are similar, and the IP-connected train is now a requirement for all train operators, in order to connect the on-board operational subsystems together. The last mile is a widely accepted phrase used in telecoms and internet industries to refer to the final leg of the telecoms network delivery components and mechanisms to the end-user. More specifically, the last mile is the common colloquialism referring to that portion of the telecommunications network chain that physically reaches the end-user. The word ‘mile’ is used metaphorically - not literally; the length of the last mile link may be more or less than a mile. Typically, the last mile is the speed bottleneck in communication networks - its bandwidth effectively limits the bandwidth of data that can be delivered. This is because telecommunication networks have the topology of ‘trees’, with relatively few high-capacity ‘trunk’ communication channels branching out to feed many final-mile ‘leaves’. In a railway telecoms network, the last mile is typically many miles long, and may use fibre, copper or radio as the communications link. Westermo is a provider of industrial sub-access layer communications equipment for such applications, designing and manufacturing robust data communication devices for harsh environments, which includes both lineside and on-board communications for rail. The company supplies products that provide the communication infrastructure, derived from proven commercial technology, for control and monitoring systems that are used in mission-critical solutions where normal commercial and domestic grade products are not sufficiently resilient.

However, Westermo is not just a supplier of small boxes with a difficult-to-understand instruction leaflet. It is a systems solution integrator which prides itself on its customer support facilities. An example of this is the Westermo Mobile Training and Technology Centre which Rail Engineer recently hosted at its Coalville offices (issue 129, July 2015).

Company history Westermo was established in 1975, just after Ethernet was introduced for the first time, and the company celebrated its fortieth birthday in May this year. The head office is located in Stora Sundby, 150km (93.2 miles) southwest of Stockholm in Sweden, with subsidiaries in Sweden, UK, Germany, France, Singapore, North America, Taiwan and sales partners appointed in over 35 countries worldwide. As well as Rail, Westermo’s other markets include gas, oil, subsea and factory automation sectors. The first Westermo data communications product was an RS-232 line modem called the KM-1 that allowed data to be transmitted over great distances using twisted pair cables. Today, there is still a product in the range, the MA-12, that is plug compatible with this device, thereby demonstrating the company’s long life support of its products. In the 1990s, Westermo created the world’s first industrial DC powered DIN-rail mounted telephone modem, which neatly avoided having to provide shelves in 19” racks for modems, or even worse having them tie-wrapped to the rear of the equipment rack. Today, nearly all the Westermo products are designed for DIN rail mounting which neatly summarises the company’s industrial background and expertise. It is no longer just a provider of modems, but now works alongside customers to provide communications solutions and consultancy. An example of this was working closely with Atkins on the design of the communications requirements for Cardiff area signalling renewal, with the provision of the Wolverine Ethernet over twisted pair copper product to network axle counters. The Westermo UK office, based in Southampton, was established in 1995 and provides sales and support to the UK and Ireland. As well as the Westermo product range, Westermo is also the agent for Elpro Technologies radio and wireless telemetry devices in the UK and Ireland.

Rail Engineer • September 2015

Westermo UK has a dedicated technical support team which provides free telephone support during office hours, and which is also able to provide on-site surveys, commissioning, network design and troubleshooting. The team includes engineers who are familiar with the rail industry, and for example quoted Solid State Interlocking (SSI) timing requirements when asked, unprompted. The support arrangements include a fully equipped lab where a representation and emulation of the customer’s network can quickly be established to assist with any network diagnostics. Any technical query should be resolved within 24hrs. If this is not possible, then the issue is quickly escalated to designers based in Sweden. The majority of the equipment supplied by Westermo is manufactured in Europe although some radio modules are supplied from Australia, where engineers have a lot of experience with radio systems in harsh, hot environments. Any trackside or on-train installation must be reliable even though the environment is hostile to data communications equipment. EMC levels can be high as many trains are powered electrically, vibration caused by passing trains is significant and temperatures in trackside cabinets and on-train can vary considerably over a year. European standard BS EN 50121-4 for railway applications (electromagnetic compatibility - emission and immunity of the signalling and telecommunications apparatus) is one of the most vigorous and stringent environmental standards in the world. The standard specifies limits for emission and immunity and provides performance criteria for signalling and telecommunications (S&T) equipment which may interfere with other apparatus in the railway environment, and so risk causing EMI to systems outside the railways’ borders. Devices supplied by Westermo are built to meet or exceed BS EN 50121-4 and are tested to between -40º C and +70º C.

Products One example of a product to interface traditional serial data from a signalling interlocking via Ethernet and IP is the Westermo Microlok® II gateway. This is available within the Lynx Ethernet device server switches and Wolverine Ethernet extenders. The functionality allows rail signalling and telecoms designers and system integrators to implement cost savings on interlocking and signalling projects as well as helping provide additional resilience to networks. Microlok II is a protocol developed by Ansaldo STS which is particularly used within rail interlockings.  The Westermo gateway converts data from the native serial format to a UDP (user datagram protocol) packet that can then be transmitted alongside other data on a trackside Ethernet network.  Westermo Lynx and  Wolverine also provide the networking infrastructure capability allowing the use of gigabit fibre optic inter-connections together with the ability to use existing twisted pair or telecoms cables as the data path. At one time the typical base band data transmission distance using RS422 over copper twisted-pair cable was 1km, and only 100 metres for Ethernet. However, the Wolverine product is type approved for Ethernet over 5km and has been tested up to 20km, which is ample for most lineside signalling and SCADA applications.


The IP train Regional trains in Germany and the Netherlands are being delivered with an on-board Ethernet network using Westermo’s RedFox railway switches. 400 units have been supplied for the first project which is one of the world’s first examples of Ethernet protocol being used for train control data management. Ethernet protocol had, until recently, been used predominantly for on-train CCTV (Close Circuit Television), passenger information and entertainment. Most of the different systems in a train have traditionally had separate interconnections or networks and a railway-specific network called TCN was used. Bombardier Transportation introduced a new system in which Ethernet manages all of the train’s on board equipment - the first to integrate all the intelligent devices on board into one Ethernet network. The first train projects without any TCN, relying solely on Ethernet networks, are already in the design phase. For the regional trains currently delivered in Germany and the Netherlands, the Ethernet network is able to determine the composition of a train - what kind of coaches constitute the train, in which order they are coupled together, and in what direction they run in order to be able to open the correct set of doors. The network carries all data types needed for control, security and passenger information including data from surveillance cameras, passenger announcements, and data to control the operation of the train (doors, control systems and lighting). Westermo supplies different basic network components: managed ring switches, managed train switches, train repeaters and unmanaged switches, all from the RedFox product line. There are an average of two to four switches per coach, and two to eight coaches per train set, accounting for the 400 switches that have been delivered so far.

Two SSI master G703 protocol converters.

Controls for a wireless distant signal.


Rail Engineer • September 2015

G703 SSI over IP

A wireless distant signal.

Radio distant signal Rail Engineer issue 119 (September 2014) covered Westermo’s involvement with the radio-linked remote distant signal. Westermo provided the radio element along with Rockwell Automation for the PLCs (programmable logic controllers) while Firstco acted as the system integrator. The wireless link was based on a 60MHz wireless system, a frequency which has been made available for licensed use by Ofcom. It has a relatively low data rate, but it is adequate for controlling a signal. The fact that the frequency band is licensed provides a degree of control over interference and the system has a typical maximum range of about five miles, which means that the range required for the application of around 2000 metres to the distant signal can be achieved reliably. The wireless system has encryption, addressing and encoding to ensure that the integrity of the data controlling the signal is secure. The 60MHz frequency is well away from other radio systems and commercially available scanners and sniffers, which is another defence against interference.

Westermo has developed telecoms products specifically for rail applications, one example of which is a G703 SSI interface for Network Rail’s Multiple Label Switching (MPLS) Internet Protocol (IP) Access Layer. SSI has been one of the success stories for signalling over the last 30 years. Unfortunately it has very stringent data latency requirements when using a telecoms network. SSI latency must not exceed 4.49 milliseconds end to end and with no greater than 3.6 milliseconds difference between the diverse A and B paths. This requirement is very challenging for an IP network. Network Rail’s Fixed Telecoms Network (FTN) design provided circuit switching to G703 64kbit/s standard for the SSI Long Line Link (LLL) contra-directional clocking requirements. Unfortunately, the PCM multiplexors used in the FTN were becoming obsolete and a solution was required that could interface directly with the new MPLS IP network. The problem is that there is virtually no market demand for the 64kbps G703 contra-directional standard as it is an obsolete communications standard. However, Westermo, partnering with Transition Networks, identified that it would be possible to support 64kbps G703 contra-directional clocking by making a minor clocking modification on an existing product called PacketBand, a standalone TDM-over-IP network interface device. A prototype device was quickly provided and tested to support both point-to-point and point-to-multipoint 64kbps G703 contra-directional communications. The PacketBand-Contra, as it is now known, was initially successfully tested with real SSI LLL traffic between Edinburgh and Millerhill for 3 hours overnight, followed by long-term stability/reliability testing at the NRT Test Lab in Edinburgh. The interface handles protocol types transparently, simply passing the data to the end devices unchanged. End-to-end synchronisation is provided with advanced algorithms that are selected to match the packet network and to provide the best possible clock recovery, synchronisation and stability. Clocking is entirely handled by the PacketBand devices and is not dependent on the synchronous operation of the underlying network. This resolves a common failure mode present in the current FTN Network, where the loss of centralised synchronisation can lead to widespread disruption to network services. To meet the stringent latency requirements of SSI Long Line Links, the data from the PacketBand-Contra devices is given priority over all other traffic in the network. This is achieved by tagging packets with the highest Quality of Service value at the ingress of the network (in both directions). The work enabled an exciting telecoms first for the Scotland Route and GB rail when a train passed through North Queensferry - the first successful running of a service (London Euston to Aberdeen sleeper) on infrastructure signalled by SSI over IP. Another example that Westermo provides consultancy and system solutions to help any project needing data communications.

Robust Industrial Data Communications –Made Easy

Network solutions for trains and trackside Westermo is a global company providing unique robust compact data communications solutions to the rail industry. We manufacture a whole range of Ethernet switches, extenders and modems designed to meet the requirements of both trainand trackside applications. … Design support for Ethernet network solutions … Application support during installation and expansion phases … Network Rail PADS approved products

Westermo Data Communications Ltd Phone: 01489 580585


Rail Engineer • September 2015

Train detection in Summit Tunnel PAUL DARLINGTON


n Thursday 20 December 1984, a dangerous goods train caught fire in the Summit Tunnel, between Littleborough and Todmorden on the Greater Manchester/West Yorkshire border. It was widely reported at the time and the resulting inferno took four days to extinguish. Local and national press gave it extensive coverage using some spectacular photographs. caused the derailment of all but the front three of the 13 tankers. Thousands of litres of petrol spilt on the track and set alight. The train crew had to run through nearly a mile of pitch black tunnel before using an emergency phone to raise the alarm. Firefighters from Littleborough and Rochdale stations were quickly on the scene. However, nearly an hour later, there was a deep rumbling underground followed by pillars of flames shooting out of the ventilation shafts dotted across the moors between Summit and Walsden. Superheated vapours exploded from



The day started out like any other for the driver of the freight train carrying one million litres of petrol from the ICI plant at Haverton Hill in Teeside to the British Tar works at Glazebrook, near Warrington. He had worked the route dozens of times before, but at about 6am a fault with the train led to a disaster that sparked one of the biggest underground fires in rail history. The train entered the near two-mile long Summit Tunnel at Littleborough from the Yorkshire side at about 40mph. About a third of the way through, a defective axle bearing

the ventilation shafts, bursting into flames 60 metres high as soon as they hit the fresh air. High-expansion foam was pumped down four of the ventilation shafts, forming a ‘plug’ to exclude air, but it was to be another four days and Christmas Eve before the fire brigade could officially confirm that the fire was out and the emergency was over. When the tunnel was inspected it was discovered that George Stephenson and his team of engineers and workers employed on building the tunnel in the 1830s had done a first class job. Even though the temperature had climbed to 8,000ºC and welded the derailed tankers to the line, damage to the interior of the tunnel was minimal. The brick lining varied between five and 10 rings thick, yet only the first three rings had melted. Although the tunnel was badly scorched it was repairable. The words of Bernard Dickinson, the assistant engineer in charge of the works: “This tunnel will defy the rage of tempest, fire, war, or wasting age,” said 144 years before, were fully justified.

The 1984 fire and its aftermath.



Rail Control Solutions

Rail Control Solutions



Across the world, millions of passengers rely on our signalling systems every day. We are proud of our 100 year history of providing innovative rail control solutions. We have pioneered many game-changing technologies – from the first computer-based interlocking system to our balise technology which has become the worldwide ERTMS/ETCS standard; from high speed solutions to CBTC – and we will continue to shape the future of signalling.

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Rail Engineer • September 2015 There was an attempted project to replace the highpowered tunnel reed track circuits with a conventional AC vane track circuit system but, on commissioning, it was not possible to make the track circuit perform reliably due to ballast conditions in the tunnel and the extremely long length of the track circuit section. The AC vane system had to be recovered and the troublesome high-powered reed system was reinstated.

Axle counters?

Summit Tunnel southern portal.

The previous reed equipment.

Train detection When the route was re-signalled as part of the Preston Power Signal Box installation in the 1970s, high-powered reed tunnel track circuits, manufactured by GEC General Signal, were installed. The system was fairly unique as the track circuit length was approximately 2,600 metres long and the equipment was different from conventional reed track circuit equipment. The high-powered reed track circuit was a double rail audio frequency system, designed and intended for use in long tunnels and similar locations where very low ballast resistance may be encountered. After the fire, the track circuit equipment was reinstated in a non-standard configuration to avoid the need for housing equipment in the tunnel and the associated maintenance access. It is believed that there were previous incidents regarding gauge clearance to locations in the tunnel, which was another reason for removing the mid-point repeater. The configuration of the track circuit was end fed, so the track circuit design did not comply with the current standard design practice (2km max end fed, 3km max centre fed). The problem with maintaining any tunnel track circuit system is that the tunnel has its own microclimate, with a wide variation of temperature and humidity. This was a particular problem at Summit Tunnel due to its distance and location. To provide a reliable track circuit system, it needed constant adjustment which was difficult in a tunnel of such length. If the track circuit was adjusted for wet and poor ballast conditions there was always the risk of a wrong side failure occurring once the tunnel dried out.

With a system nearly 40 years old, spares were becoming difficult to obtain. The normal solution for replacing a train detection system in a tunnel with poor ballast conditions is the provision of axle counters. Axle counters have no limit on the length of track section and are unaffected by ballast conditions. If axle counters were provided there would be an advantage for the overall reliability of the system and it would be less likely that technicians would have to enter the tunnel itself - a red zone prohibited area. But at Summit Tunnel axle counter provision had additional problems. One key issue associated with the use of any type of axle counter solution is that there was no means of emergency communication within Summit Tunnel. GSM-R fitment to the tunnel together with all the trains using the tunnel was some way off. Tunnel telephones were considered, but would be expensive to provide and maintain for such a long tunnel, and would not provide a means of instant communication. As well as the 1984 fire there had been another more recent derailment in the tunnel so, without a means of emergency communication, the use of axle counters was not acceptable. Also, a method of axle counter reset and restore would have been required. There would have been a need to amend the train operating company’s procedures for the use of axle counters, in particular for the communications protocol throughout the tunnel. The time penalty per reset of the axle counter section was the difference in time taken to traverse the section at linespeed (70mph lowering to 65mph) and at a slower speed (15mph) for examining the line. The delay based on this assumption would be approximately five minutes, plus delays caused by the restriction of aspects in the rear of the tunnel protecting signal.

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Rail Engineer • September 2015

EBITrack 400 equipment on trial.

EBITrack 400 It appeared that the only solution would be to wait until GSM-R was fully deployed on the route; but then the option of deploying one of the first EBITrack 400 installations in Great Britain was considered. Based on EBITrack 200 (also known as TI21), which was already widely used on the British network, Bombardier had developed a truly interoperable track circuit system in the form of the coded audio frequency EBITrack 400. The new system used the same track circuit interface components and tuned area layout as the original but with new modulation and demodulation techniques - a coded system achieved by changing only the transmitter and receiver modules from the original Fast frequency Shift Keying (FSK) system. The size of the code word was chosen such that the wrong-side failure integrity could be mathematically proven. The development resulted in a system which has an extremely low wrong-side failure probability. In-band traction, or other interference up to the level of the track circuit signal threshold itself can be tolerated without a rightside failure. 16,000 unique codes per carrier frequency can be allocated so that every track circuit can be given its own unique code. The adoption of satellite communication correlation techniques produces a novel demodulation and track occupancy evaluation solution. The coding system uses a form of phase shift keying (PSK) of a sine wave carrier rather than the frequency shift keying (FSK) technique of all earlier versions of EBI Track, delivering excellent performance in a noisy track environment.

A high-power transmitter output drive allows feed lengths of up to 7.5 km for main-line applications so this was the main advantage and made it ideal for the Summit Tunnel application.

Condition monitoring The operation of an audio frequency track circuit is strongly affected by the trackside environment and the following factors can have a detrimental effect on reliability: »» Ballast impedance; »» Track to sleeper insulation integrity; »» Integrity of track connections; »» Track contamination such as leaf mould or rust. The first three directly affect the amplitude of the track circuit signal which finds its way to the receiver, this quantity normally being referred to as the ‘clear track current’. Track circuits with stable clear track currents that do not vary by more than a few percent have good quality ballast conditions (producing a high impedance), sleeper insulation and track connections. Conversely, unstable conditions indicate that degradation of one or all

three parameters is taking place and a maintenance visit is required to prevent a worsening situation leading to a performance-related right-side failure. The fourth condition, track contamination, affects the ability of the train wheels to shunt the track circuit, leading to an increase in the shunted track current at the receiver. Thus increasing shunted current in a track circuit indicates that track cleaning needs to be activated in order to avoid a wrong-side track circuit failure. Remote monitoring enables both types of condition to be detected and corrective action to be instigated before traffic is disrupted, and avoids having to walk through a dark tunnel to take measurements. Another benefit from remote monitoring is the ability to pinpoint which track circuit has failed within a long cascaded section. Condition monitoring is provided as an integral part of the transmitter and receiver. The monitored data is available via a nine-way dedicated condition monitoring connector, providing RS232 or RS485 protocols and allowing connection to a centralised monitoring system. It is also available via the configuration key and real time track circuit data can be read off the condition monitoring digital displays mounted on the front face of each transmitter and receiver module. Remote monitoring is an important tool in improving availability as technical staff can readily monitor actual track circuit conditions and detect problems such as ballast degradation or loosening connections before complete failure occurs.

Rail Engineer • September 2015 Installation It was decided to provide the EBITrack400 at Summit Tunnel and not axle counters as it would be a simpler design and installation than the axle counter option which would require alterations to Preston panel. The track circuit option would not, nor would it require the installation of an evaluator and UPS at Todmorden relay room as it could be contained within the existing location cases and no new buildings or enclosures would be required. Training requirements were more onerous with the axle counter option, which would require training for signallers, operations staff, maintenance staff and train crew. The track circuit option would only require limited additional maintenance training as the new system used the same lineside equipment, and some of the same testing equipment, as that currently installed within the area and no additional emergency communication system would be needed. Two EBITrack 400 track circuits were trialled over a period of three months at Bere Alston in Devon. The total operational time of the trial was 2,328 hours during which there were no track circuit failures. The trial coincided with a period of heavy rain during which the ballast conditions were poor, giving confidence that the system would work at Summit Tunnel. The main benefit of the new system was that it could be fed with very long tail cables, meaning that it was possible to provide cut-section tracks throughout the tunnel while still feeding them from location cases


sited outside the tunnel. So, in effect, there is now a series of maintainable, compliant distance track circuits, rather than one large unreliable non-compliant track circuit. Although there is a requirement to have lineside equipment within the tunnel, in the form of tuning units, end termination units and line matching units, this equipment is largely passive and very reliable. The system has now been in service at Summit Tunnel for over a year and has proved to be very reliable and maintainable. With the introduction of communications-based signalling, there will still be a continuing need for an independent means of train detection, such as track circuits and axle counters. These will also be required for emergency back-up purposes, especially for situations such as stations and depot areas with many short track circuit lengths with complicated layouts of switches and crossings. Track circuits will need to have a safe and proven electromagnetic compatibility with all types of current and future train-borne electronically controlled traction units, and this is where the EBITrack 400 track circuit system is ideal. There are already extensive plans to install the system both in Great Britain and the rest of the world. Thanks to members of the project team and Andy Fitchett, assistant signalling and telecoms engineer Preston, for their assistance with this article.


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Rail Engineer • September 2015


Train Connectivity - The Future Beckons


ommunicating to trains is an increasing requirement in the digital age, not just in the UK but all around the world. There are many reasons why this demand has emerged and they span from personal habits of wanting to constantly ‘keep in touch’ right through to the sending of safety critical instructions for ongoing train movement. Can this broad swathe of need be provided by a single backbone of radio connection? Or do there have to be different technologies for different requirements? It’s an interesting debate. One firm in particular has given the challenge a considerable amount of thought and has produced an emerging number of technical developments over the past few years, including the roll out of ontrain networks and communications systems in many countries.

Wi-Fi on trains Nomad Digital has been in existence since 2002, its starting point being to engineer a Wi-Fi connection to trains for passenger usage. A number of train operators (TOCs) within the UK signed contracts for this provision and, with the ensuing roll out, the strengths and weaknesses of the architecture began to emerge. Unlike rival companies that chose to rely on satellite communication (itself having limitations when encountering

tunnels and other shadow spots), Nomad elected to use the terrestrial public 3G (and latterly 4G and soon to be available 5G) networks as the communications path. Added to this train-to-shore solution, Nomad equips the train with its own internal Wi-Fi network thus making the train a kind of moving ‘hotspot’. There are two common ways of linking the Wi-Fi access points along the train: either by providing an internal Wi-Fi system and a series of radio ‘inter carriage links’ or by using the through-train wiring for distribution of the radio signal to each coach. The latter is preferred as the unlicensed Wi-Fi band commonly used for inter-carriage networking is subject to increasing levels of interference and performance can be affected - particularly if it is a long train. The availability of train network wiring can vary considerably; easy for new trains where the requirement has been built in, less easy for older stock where imaginative ways of multiplexing on to existing train wires might be needed. A Rail Engineer article on how an on-train Wi-Fi service was achieved and deployed appeared in issue 73 (November 2010). The popularity of the product soon produced its own problems as the available bandwidth could be quickly swamped by users having extended voice conversations and downloading large files.

Rail Engineer • September 2015

Such a situation could earn the service a bad name and it was ‘pot luck’ as to how successful a user would be, much being dependent on the level of business on the train and the type of passenger on board. The quality and coverage of the mobile cellular networks used to carry all data traffic to and from the train was another determining factor. Many of the UK TOCs are now providing train connectivity and, indeed, it is often a franchise requirement. Nomad provides this service for Virgin West Coast, Heathrow Express, CrossCountry, East Midlands Trains, South West Trains, ScotRail and First Great Western. A recent contract signed with Eurostar will equip both the refurbished Alstom fleet and the new Siemens Velaro trains with both Wi-Fi and entertainment services. Nomad systems have also been deployed in many other countries including Queensland Rail in Australia, Canadian VIA Rail, Amtrak in the USA, LEO Express in the Czech Republic, the PKP intercity network in Poland, NSB in Norway, the NS intercity trains in Holland, and the S-Train network in Copenhagen. All have been duly promoted as part of the Nomad marketing campaign and some include the added provision of passenger information services (PIS) or entertainment content delivery to passengers’ laptops, tablets or smartphones. The demand for enhanced passenger communication is without doubt a growing business. The challenge is how to provide this within the bandwidth limitations of the external mobile network providers whilst still providing an acceptable quality of service. The vision of an always-available unlimited Wi-Fi is challenging to deliver and the connectivity has to be managed so as to provide an acceptable level of service shared by all passengers. Offering alternative on-screen services in each coach is expected to reduce demand for unlimited usage from personal mobile devices.

Current thinking Train connectivity is much more than just providing a connection for travellers’ laptops, tablets and smartphones. It is emerging into an on train ‘service delivery platform’ (SDP) for all communication needs including real time passenger information, staff enterprise applications, news flashes, entertainment and advertising. Worldwide, only 2-3% of trains are fitted with internet connectivity and Nomad is estimated to have more than 45% of market share. In the UK, roughly a third of trains have on-board Wi-Fi but this is set to grow and is likely to increase to 100% over the next five years. This will mean increasing bandwidth demands despite attempts to moderate passenger usage by providing targeted and relevant on-train information and content. So where will this come from? The Nomad view is that overall availability of spectrum is likely to change. The days of allocating specific chunks of frequencies to dedicated users are considered to be numbered and therefore the possible successor to GSM-R


Portuguese Alfa Pendular Pendolino tilting train.


Rail Engineer • September 2015

ScotRail class 380.

will need to be designed around a shared radio service. The same will apply to military applications, the emergency services and civil aviation. In parallel, the public mobile networks will move to IP technology and these will be the backbone for all user groups. Some railway engineers and operators will struggle to get their heads around this but the reality of spectrum value and utilisation is such that having chunks that are lightly or inefficiently used will be unacceptable to the regulation authorities, service providers and governments. The design and safeguarding of radio services from interference and cyber attack will clearly be a large part of this challenge. For railways, there is also the problem of signal strength both at the trackside and on trains, and whilst 3G and 4G service providers continue to enhance coverage, it is unlikely that 100% will be available for reliable high-quality rail usage. Companies such as Nomad Digital must therefore be prepared to partner with the public network providers to enhance the base station infrastructure where necessary. The vexed question of tunnels remains, as these require expensive radiating cable provision to give service. If the transit time at line speed is short, it is unlikely to be financially justifiable but it will depend on usage aspirations for both public and in-house demand.

Operational use Whilst plying the travelling public with ever-more-comprehensive information by using the connectivity available, why not use this for train borne operational use? Nomad has come up with the acronym ROCM (Remote Online Condition Monitoring) which opens up a host of possibilities for intelligent fleet management and energy savings. An obvious application is linking a train data bus to a fleet control centre so that data relating to the performance of various on-train systems, including alarm gathering, fuel consumption, speed and braking, that is currently captured for historical purposes, can be diagnosed much earlier thus prompting immediate action or attention at the next depot visit. The advent of DAS (Driver Advisory Systems) is dependent for success on reliable communication to and from timetable and real time train positioning data, so an enhanced connectivity link will prove invaluable to the performance of such systems. Countries that have invested in these operational communication links include: »» Portugal, where a joint venture with EMEF (the Portugese rolling stock maintenance company) has equipped the Pendolino Fleet with ROCM (improving reliability by up to 30%), the CP Porto 34 strong

commuter fleet (energy savings up to 20%), and also the CP Freight fleet of elderly diesel locomotives which, with new on board sensors, now have increased performance and life expectancy; »» Norwegian State Railways (NSB), which has equipped nearly 300 trains with information distributed to more than 200 people from different departments; »» NS (the Dutch state rail operator), which has severe over crowding problems, has used a link to the output of passenger counting systems to direct people to less congested parts of the train.

Crossing the safety divide Providing a connectivity service for commercial and monitoring purposes is one thing, but transmission of operational messages, for instance Movement Authorities to trains, is another ball game. It begs the question as to when an application becomes safety related or even safety critical. Where does GSM-R sit in this debate? It is certainly a fundamental part of ERTMS and, without reliable communication links, trains will be brought to a halt. In that sense, GSM-R is safety related. Only if radio messages are corrupted to give legitimate but invalid false information to ETCS can it be regarded as safety critical.

Rail Engineer • September 2015

As mentioned earlier, any successor system will almost certainly not have dedicated bandwidth but will this scenario worsen the safety factor? It could be that availability is improved, thus providing a more reliable service. This can happen if multiple radio links are used where a message may be delivered by any one or more of these, the resulting redundancy giving a higher availability of a data ‘path’ to and from the train, something that cannot be achieved by reliance on a single technology. The answer may come from North America, where Nomad has already provided the track-to-train control communications for the PTC (Positive Train Control) systems. PTC is a near-equivalent to ERTMS and it is now common practice for quasi-public networks to be used for PTC operational critical messaging. The safety of the message is assured by using authentication techniques plus methods for ensuring integrity and timestamps.

Multiple transmission modes and channels, including private radio networks, cellular mobile and Wi-Fi, are planned. However, these will have a closely managed QoS (Quality of Service) in a message server to support message prioritisation, delivery assurance and defence against denial of service. Whilst the USA is predominantly a freight rail operation for long distances, passenger train usage in urban and city areas is on the increase, so speed and reliability are as important as in Europe. Public IP radio networks seem to be the way forward for operational messaging and Nomad Digital will no doubt be in the forefront of developing the associated systems to support this. All in all, train connectivity has come a long way over the last decade, progressing from a ‘nice to have’ to becoming an essential part of a modern day train operation. Expectations must, however, be realistic and must align with radio frequency, bandwidth and coverage constraints. Companies such as Nomad Digital, considered to be the pioneer and leader in the business, must be prepared to invest in network enhancement so as to ensure the planned service levels can be delivered reliably and consistently. What is clear is that train connectivity in all its facets is here to stay.



Rail Engineer • September 2015

Technology with a capital T

Rail Engineer • September 2015


espite recent funding issues, Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne has made it clear that his vision to deliver a railway powered by digital technology should remain a catalyst for future industry growth. Indeed, Network Rail’s multi-million pound programme of investment in a

series of signalling and telecoms initiatives will lay the foundations for a safer and more reliable railway. The opportunities these projects create for the rail industry are of a scale not seen for decades.



Rail Engineer • September 2015


This includes both the new FTNx telecommunications network and the planned upgrade of the signalling infrastructure to the European Train Control System (ETCS). These ambitious schemes will boost passenger capacity by up to 40%, improve railway safety and deliver a better customer experience for the traveller.

FTNx - the network of the future Without doubt, FTNx is one of the rail industry’s most crucial programmes. Network Rail’s planned transition to a robust carrier-class network infrastructure will enable a broad range of vital future network services. This includes the signalling upgrade to ETCS, and will also enable connectivity for an assortment of assets ranging from CCTV to smart infrastructure sensors and, possibly, consumer devices. Indeed, FTNx is integral for the distribution of information for rail signalling and electrification control. Rail telecoms specialist Alan Dick Communications (ADComms) is partnering with Telefonica and Cisco to transition the UK’s legacy rail network by delivering the FTNx network. Transmission capacity is based around a fibre cable network which is laid alongside all main and secondary routes. Jason Pearce, CEO of ADComms, explained that FTNx will also help to yield substantial safety improvements for the industry: “The ability to link to consumer devices could, for example, lead to improved innovation in wearable technology through the use of internet-enabled devices. “As FTNx moves into an operational comms network, we will see the delivery of a modern network carrying all the safety critical services

required. This includes data delivery that will be used to analyse conditions, predict events and generate information remotely. In future, this will provide smart infrastructure management for the industry and help to minimise the time deployed for engineers trackside in high risk environments.” However, FTNx alone isn’t capable of delivering future growth for the industry. For it to be a success, it must be coupled with radio-based technology. Optical networks must collaborate to create an infrastructure capable of doing and providing more value for both the consumer and the rail operators. As the network becomes more sophisticated, with more connected devices and access points present across remote locations, so does the opportunity to gain access to sensitive systems, information and critical controls. The introduction of M2M (machine to machine) working, or IoT (Internet of Things), increases the points of access over the network significantly, especially where trackside sensors are located

in remote locations with limited physical security and protection. A new set of security procedures to safeguard the network is crucial along with an understanding of the technologies involved. The challenge is balancing this implementation of new technologies, while continuing to support the railways’ existing services and safety systems. The future of the UK’s rail industry will involve the connection of a significant number of devices across the network as Network Rail works with operators to form a digitisation strategy. This will make data and information more widely available, from Wi-Fi on trains to the wider asset management system. FTNx brings a high capacity, resilient and secure network to the UK rail industry. A programme of huge scale and complexity, it has the power to revolutionise the rail industry. Indeed, FTNx is far more than a mere network - it is the catalyst for evolution in network technologies.

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Rail Engineer • September 2015

Delivering ETCS On a rail network that is already at capacity, the best way to meet demand is to implement technologies that will enable more trains to run on existing tracks. ETCS, the upgrade tasked with the delivery of this target, has received a lot of attention in Rail Engineer and elsewhere. Understandably so, as it is fundamental to the industry’s vision. A signalling system which has been developed across Europe to allow trains to travel between different countries without the requirement to change signalling systems or locomotives, ETCS also allows drivers to always run at an optimally safe speed. This will help more trains run faster and recover from delays quicker, delivering an estimated 40% saving over conventional systems. In the future, trains will only start and stop from stations, rather than from signals. It will enable the industry to increase the safety, reliability and capacity of the network to meet growing journey demand. Additionally, the move will deliver significant safety improvements in a predicted 80% reduction in trains passing red signals and a 50% reduction in trackside signal maintenance. This will relieve much of the current pressure on the network with regards to systems failures. Much of the UK’s current railway signalling is bolted onto older technology. Indeed, some areas are still controlled manually by signallers from signal boxes, who pull levers connected to semaphore arms. The shift to ETCS embodies Network Rail’s new emphasis on telecoms and signalling, as well as its willingness to work more closely

with technological integrators to reinvent the industry. Pearce continued: “We’ve seen Network Rail really grab the significance of telecoms over the last few years. The body has changed its approach within the telecoms industry, and companies such as ours have become far more involved.”

ETCS: the Crossrail enabler ADComms is working with Network Rail to install one of the first functioning ETCScompliant systems across Heathrow Airport’s rail tunnel infrastructure. This will extend GSM-R coverage from the Great Western main line into Heathrow’s tunnels, from the portal entry to the central terminal through Terminals 4 and 5. As a component of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), this will allow ETCS level 2 signalling to be introduced. The installation is essential for the introduction of Crossrail services through to Heathrow Airport. The existing Cab Secure Radio (CSR) currently in place will be replaced by GSM-R as a means of allowing communication between signaller and driver on the line. As Crossrail trains are only fitted with GSM-R, the successful completion of this project will allow Crossrail to deliver on its pledge to provide ten trains every hour on the Great Western main line at peak time. Using newer and longer electric trains, passengers will experience a quicker, cleaner, smoother and quieter journey, in stark comparison to the current diesel trains which are used west of Paddington. Overcrowding on

board will also be significantly reduced thanks to the additional line capacity which the upgrade will allow. Scheduled to complete in July 2016, this is an important project which will enable Crossrail trains to operate. The project will involve the installation of 15,000 metres of leaky feeder technology, 15,000 metres of fibre, nine repeaters and antennae at the tunnel portal and the stations within the tunnel infrastructure.

Vital next steps Rail users will undoubtedly benefit from the implementation of programmes such as FTNx. However, delivering such a technological improvement to the UK rail network is not without its challenges, particularly given the skills shortages faced by the industry. For these programmes to be successful, technological integration is a vital next step. Effective data communication needs a top-class telecoms network at its heart. Greater investment in telecoms infrastructure is also crucial. Moving to ETCS and FTNx is a huge change for the rail industry that will enable a much-needed capacity increase. These will make the railways a safer and more secure environment for its workforce to navigate - welcome developments the industry deserves. The UK’s new breed of IT infrastructural engineers is more than qualified to mitigate this exciting period of change and development. Mike Hewitt is head of next generation networks at ADComms (Alan Dick Communications)



Call 01530 816 456 or visit AGENDA 08.30



Introduction to Sustainability Tertius Beneke, Network Rail


De-mystifying Sustainability Chris Leech MBE, Business in the Community


Session 1 – How can Sustainability fit into the rail industry? The Government’s perspective on Sustainability – Peter Wilkinson, DfT Embedding Sustainability in Scotland’s Railways – Gordon MacLeod, Transport for Scotland Case study from AD Communications on Solar Power and the railway – Jason Pearce, CEO Q&A Session – Panel Discussion

THIS YEAR’S SPEAKERS Tertius Beneke Network Rail

Chris Leech MBE

Business in the Community

Peter Wilkinson DfT

Gordon MacLeod




Session 2 – Making the Environment and Sustainability work How can we be environmentally smart whilst maintaining cost efficiency? – Andrew English, Skanska Case Study from Northern Rail on their achievements in Sustainability – Gareth Williams, Northern Rail

Jason Pearce

Q&A Session – Panel Discussion

Andrew English




Session 2 – How to engage ‘people’ in Sustainability How does the largest construction project in Europe embrace sustainability, and, engage and reward its employees and contractors for sustainable practices? – Cathy Myatt, Crossrail Future planning - what measures are needed to ensure that the apprentices and graduates of the future are fully equipped to work in a sustainable environment? – Cal Bailey, NG Bailey How do we connect sustainability with the Economy? Is it possible to make this mutually beneficial for all? – Tim Balcon, CEO of IEMA Q&A Session – Panel Discussion

Transport Scotland

AD Communications Skanska

Gareth Williams Northern Rail

Cathy Myatt Crossrail

Cal Bailey NG Bailey

Tim Balcon



14.35 – 16.00 Session 4 - Support Growth in the UK CEEQUAL and how it influences the sustainability characteristics and performances of rail projects – Professor Roger Venables, Ceequal Is it possible to offer a joined up, integrated transport system? – Andy Dixon, Costain Optimising the railway - how does sustainability enable rail systems capabilities to be maximised whilst still offering value for money? – Anthony Perrett, RSSB

Professor Roger Venables

Q&A Session – Panel Discussion WRAP UP

Sustainability S us sttainability S ummit Summit


Andy Dixon Costain

Anthony Perrett RSSB


Rail Engineer • September 2015



signalling upgrade


he village of Balcombe, in deepest Sussex, became famous in 2013 for the wrong reasons. This was where a drilling exercise for the possible extraction of oil by fracking caused a local furore and, following the resultant publicity given to the real fears of the local population, the rent-a-mob brigade descended en masse by train to Balcombe station with all the ensuing policing challenges. Little did these hordes realise that the railway route through Balcombe was already giving Network Rail and the TOCs a major headache. The Brighton line between Balcombe Tunnel Junction and Copyhold Junction is the southern equivalent of the Welwyn bottleneck on the East Coast main line. From just south of Three Bridges, the line reduces from four tracks to two through the tunnel and then over the Ouse Valley viaduct before opening out again to four tracks into Haywards Heath station. The line was resignalled in 1982 under the control of the new Three Bridges Power Box, which covers from Croydon to Brighton with fringe boxes on the various branches. The technology used route relay interlockings, tungsten bulb signals, reed track circuits and a traditional FDM (frequency division multiplex) system for remote control of the relay rooms and indications. The twin-track sections at Balcombe and between Haywards Heath and Preston Park, near to Brighton, were equipped with SIMBIDS (Simplified Bi-Directional Signalling) as a means of allowing trains to run on the wrong line under restricted long block section conditions. This proved to be troublesome and had adverse safety implications as it was not possible to inform staff reliably that trains were running ‘wrong road’. The facility was therefore never properly used. Now over thirty years old, the general condition of the signalling is showing its age and renewal is pending.

The Balcombe problem and contract The Balcombe area suffers from capacity issues and increasing capacity to six trains an hour in bi-directional travel has been essential to meet the increasing demands of the infrastructure but also to increase access to undertake essential infrastructure maintenance throughout the route without the need to disrupt large sections of the Railway. Balcombe tunnel, is very wet and in poor condition. In recent times, masonry falls have needed urgent attention with the line being closed for lengthy periods, resulting in considerable disruption to train services with a lengthy diversion for through services or bus substitution. A metal shielding has been attached to the tunnel roof, primarily to divert water away from the tracks and into the drainage channels and also to provide some protection against any further masonry dislodgement. The result is a decision to resignal this section of line to permit full reversible working and to provide more resilient equipment against the effects of lying ground water. It also will allow six trains an hour in each direction when reversible signalling is in operation and permit access to undertake essential infrastructure maintenance across the route without the need to disrupt this section of railway in its entirety.

The development of the scheme has been protracted with a number of false starts. Since the project involved only a partial resignalling, with the interlockings at Three Bridges and Haywards Heath being retained, the design work would have to delve into existing records in order to modify the relay circuitry. A contract to carry out the work was awarded to Kier as main contractor. Although a new name in signalling, the company has, in fact, a depth of experience in the discipline following its acquisition of May Gurney. The company has also undertaken signalling projects in East Anglia, namely Ely West Curve, Bury St Edmonds to Chippenham Junction, Ely to Peterborough track circuit replacement and Kings Lynn signalling renewals. Although Kier has a growing in-house design resource, it also partners with other companies to provide additional expertise. One such relationship is with TICS Rail Signalling, based in Doncaster. Having worked together on various projects for nine years, the combined skills of Kier and TICS allow them to provide an enhanced product capable of tackling much larger signalling renewals schemes, offering Network Rail a combined signalling design facility, signalling installation delivery units and the substantial works testing teams provided by TICS. Rail Engineer met the Kier signalling team in the impressive headquarters at Tempsford Hall, near Sandy in Bedfordshire, together with Mark Cusack of TICS, to learn how the Balcombe project has progressed.

Rail Engineer • September 2015


The work entailed In letting the contract to permit full reversible working on both lines, Network Rail originally anticipated that only the track circuits and signal heads, and the associated wiring, would need replacing with the trackside location cases themselves being reused. However, a detailed survey showed that this was not feasible and thus the scheme was expanded to a complete renewal of equipment over the 9km section. The track layout is unchanged and thus the existing point machines were kept and also some signal gantries. Renewals include: »» Replacement of all signal heads and banner repeaters with LED equivalents supplied by Unipart Dorman; »» New signals installed for full reversible working; »» Upgrading existing signal gantries to modern standards with ladders and walkways; »» Provision of new lightweight signal posts and gantries supplied by Collis Engineering; »» Embankment retention work and trough route upgrade where necessary; »» Replacement of track circuits with Bombardier TI21 (EBI Track 200) type; »» Additional TPWS loops supplied by Vortok; »» Renewal of the FDM system with Siemens Westplex vital transmission system; »» A new control panel and mimic display section in Three Bridges PSB supplied by TEW Group (now part of LB Foster); »» New copper lineside cabling and, where necessary, new lineside locations; »» Upgrade to the lineside 650V power supply distribution; »» Modifications to the telecom facilities for additional SPTs and a new bearer for the Westplex remote control system; »» Modification to impedance bonds for traction return current and associated bonding; »» Provision of a dual train detection system in Balcombe tunnel using Frauscher axle counters.

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Rail Engineer • September 2015

Some of these require further explanation. The Westplex remote control system is a relatively new product. It allows vital controls and indications to be interfaced directly from lineside to an interlocking and, as such, is type approved to a SIL4 standard. This allows significant saving in signalling multicore cables and, although some initial problems were found with the connectors, a revised design overcame this. The Vortok AWS product is much lighter and easier to fasten to sleepers than previous types, which proved itself with limited availiable track access. Some reliability problems had been encountered when used in the past which delayed safety approval, but this has now been resolved. Power supply design has followed the nowstandard Class II principle of using a doubleinsulated two-core ‘earth free’ cable system. Power comes from the traction sub-stations at Ouse Valley and Balcombe Tunnel Junction where two 25kVA transformers produce a main and standby 650V lineside feeder that will permit uninterrupted operation. A transformer and rectifier in each location case gives the 110V AC and 50V DC supplies for the S&T equipment. Whilst the EBI Track 200 track circuit is very reliable, wet conditions could cause failure and thus Network Rail requested that a dual train

detection system be provided in Balcombe Tunnel. The result was a parallel axle counter system that can only be switched in by the TCO (Train Control Officer) at Three Bridges. A rigorous procedure is needed for a changeover with all train movements stopped, all routes released and the necessary paperwork completed. Maybe reliability justifies this duplication. Power box mimic diagrams are notoriously difficult to modify when alterations are needed and Three Bridges was no exception. Supplied originally by Westinghouse, the panel is made up of large square tiles, each with the tracks and associated displays for route setting and track occupation. It was impractical to modify the existing section of panel so the decision was made to lower this to ground level and install a completely new panel in the vacant position, thus allowing it to be fitted out and energised with the reversible signalling but covered up so it would not distract the signallers. The Westplex allowed testing to be carried out direct from the external equipment to the mimic diagram. Upon changeover, the old panel was duly covered up and the new one unmasked. Co-operation with the operating floor staff, both Network Rail and the train operators, has been excellent and was instrumental in facilitating the change.

Staging and commissioning The Brighton main line is a busy stretch of railway so obtaining access and possessions has been an ever-present challenge. An added complication was the work being carried out to build the new Thameslink train depot at Three Bridges and S&C work at Haywards Heath. The various project teams worked collaboratively to resolve access issues and, whenever possible, both projects took advantage of the same possessions. The new location cases and signal heads were assembled off site by Unipart Dorman and tested by TICS. Installation work proceeded during 2014 with a number of commissioning stages arranged for the autumn of that year. These included: »» Stages 1 (part) and 4 (part) from 27 September to 6 October with 26 and 52-hour weekend possessions - power changes at Haywards Heath and Copyhold Junction and renewal of signal heads and complex looping alterations to existing circuitry within the Three Bridges interlocking (the power work had implications beyond the immediate area and affected fringe box operation at Lewes and Lancin); »» Stages 1 (part) and 4 (part) from 11-13 October with 52-hour possession - further signal head changeover and fitment of new control panel and mimic diagram at Three Bridges;

Rail Engineer • September 2015


and complementary skills as well as briefing everyone on access points, safety, timings and work packages. A further stage 6, which will bring in to service the parallel axle counter protection, is due for completion later this year.

The result

»» Stages 3 and 4 (part) from 18 - 20 October with 26-hour possession - final fitting of new signal heads plus track circuits and TPWS fitting in Haywards Heath area; »» Stage 5 (part) from 20-23 March 2015 with 52-hour possession - final track circuit fitment and commissioning of new signalling in the normal running direction; »» Stage 5 (part) from 27-30 March with 52hour possession for commissioning of the reversible signalling and test train running. Shorter possessions were arranged at night for

the laying of cable, installation of locations and other work away from the running rails. The commissioning stages in March 2015 follows the serious delays to signalling works over Christmas and Network Rail put mitigation measures in place by appointing a peer reviewer to make sure something similar did not occur at Balcombe. Part of the process was a day-long risk assessment session with all contractors present to thrash out all the ‘what ifs’. This proved extremely useful and enabled teams to be formed of people with compatible

The original contract value was circa £10 million and for Kier, working on such a busy and publicity sensitive main line, any setbacks would have been high profile. However the success of the project was secured by the collaborative spirit and close working relationships between each part of the team. Certainly, management of both Kier and TICS were pleased with the result. The Brighton line now has a degree of resilience for this sensitive section. There is continuing talk of an alternative route to Brighton, possibly by the re-opening of the Uckfield to Lewes section, which seems to be gaining some momentum. Otherwise it is the long hike round by Littlehampton that almost doubles the journey time. We shall have to wait and see. Thanks to Andrew Swanson, Paul Cornelius and Jane Mason from Kier and to Mark Cusack and John Storer from TICS for their detailed explanation of what was involved and for the honesty in portraying the real issues.

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Rail Engineer • September 2015


Swindon Panel Swindon panel 1968 pictured right and 2015 pictured above. The vertical train describer is now just a notice board.


ith Network Rail’s declared intention of concentrating the signalling of trains at eleven Rail Operating Centres (ROCs), the power signal boxes, typically with entrance - exit (NX) control panels, in which signallers have beavered away behind the scenes controlling most of the main line railway over the last fifty five years, are closing. This is the remarkable story of the project to preserve one such control panel - in full working order. But first, the whys and wherefores of Western Region (WR) panels.

The modernisation of British Railways In the mid-1950s, whilst there were a few pockets of colour light signalling in the Paddington, Bristol, Cardiff and Newport areas, most of the region utilised semaphore signals worked from lever frames. The WR embarked upon a major programme of installing multiple-aspect signalling (MAS) throughout its main line network which would be operated from its own brand of power signal box known simply as the ‘panel’. The big main line panels were located, in the order in which they were commissioned, at Birmingham Snow Hill (1960), Plymouth, Newport, Port Talbot, Slough, Reading, Cardiff, Old Oak Common, Swindon (1968), Gloucester, Bristol, and Oxford (1973). The MAS programme for the WR was completed in the mid-1980s with the opening of two further panel boxes at Exeter and Westbury, although these were of a completely different design to those already in service and were similar to the London Bridge Westinghouse M5 style described in issue 125 (March 2015).

The Western Region Panel Box The slightly sloping horizontal panel contains the switches; buttons; route set, track occupied, and point detection indications; and telephones. The panel is a matrix of 40mm square plug-in ‘dominos’, patented by a Swiss company called Integra and supplied in the UK by Darlington-based company Henry Williams. Each domino contains the switches, buttons and sections of track (coloured black) which may be illuminated from within to display ‘route set’ (white) or ‘track occupied’ (red). All operational functions including points, ground frames and hot axle box detectors may be depicted with their associated locked/free indications. The detail is engraved into the tiles making for a durable product with long life. A route is set by turning a switch through 90 degrees at the entrance signal, followed by pressing an exit button at the next signal, platform buffers or sidings as the case may be. White route lights then appear up to the first set of points requiring to be moved. Whilst these points are being called to the correct position the ‘normal’ and ‘reverse’ route lights covering the points flash alternately until detection has been established. Route lights then continue to light up along the line of route to the next set of points and so on.



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Rail Engineer • September 2015

Demonstration panel pictured right.

The entrance signal clears to a ‘proceed’ aspect when the required conditions specified in the signal control tables have been satisfied. As the train progresses, the white route lights change to red as each train detection section becomes occupied. The red lights change back to white as the train clears the sections and the first route light at the signal flashes to remind the signaller that he must rotate the entrance switch back to normal. Incidentally, the last WR Integra panel box, at Oxford, uses the standard NX push-push configuration rather than turn-push. The route setting commands on the panel operate ‘nonvital’ ‘Post Office’ type relays which form a push-button interlocking ensuring that requests to set conflicting or unavailable routes are immediately rejected. These relays feed out route setting/cancel commands to the appropriate fail-safe interlocking which moves points and clears signals only if it is absolutely safe to do so. This is achieved by the WR’s own design of relay interlocking known as ‘E10K’. There is usually an interlocking within the same building as the panel, for example as at Swindon, covering signalling in the station area. Relay interlockings are usually situated close to the points and signals that they control. Thus a panel will also control what are termed remote interlockings. For example, at Swindon, one of several remote interlockings is provided at Wootton Bassett, being connected to the panel by an electronic ‘Time Division Multiplex’ data transmission system. At Swindon, the original TDM systems have been replaced by Delphin 1024 Multiplexer TDMs supplied by GE Transportation Systems (GETS). The near-vertical panel at the back was originally used for the Sodeco electro-mechanical train describer and signal post telephone buttons. Descriptions were set up using a telephone rotary dial. The noise on the operating floor of a train description stepping from berth to berth resembled a call being set up in a Strowger electromechanical telephone exchange that mature readers may recall! Reliability fell away as time progressed and the system at Swindon was replaced with an LED train describer for a few years, followed by a Vaughan VDU system in the mid1990s. Much of the space on the back panel is now used as a notice board.

Birth of the Swindon Panel Society The story began back in September 2012 with two railwaymen, Danny Scroggins and Tom O’Flaherty. Both thought it was a shame that all the WR panels would close, and a generation of signalling technology would eventually be consigned to the skip without any example being saved. It was felt that it would be difficult to obtain support for preserving a static, non-working example. However, the idea of preserving it in a simulated working state, wiring it up to a computer to simulate the passage of trains and thereby providing a hands-on educational visitor experience, was a lot more viable. The concept, already proven for lever frame boxes such as the former Exeter West Box now located at Crewe Heritage Centre, might now include a power box. In order to support these objectives, the new Society was formed. Swindon panel was chosen. It is in reasonable condition, and the track layout isn’t overly complicated in any particular area obviating the need for extensive electronic interfaces and complex simulation coding, yet the panel is long enough for three or four visitors to operate the panel at the same time. £1 has already been paid to Network Rail to secure the purchase of the panel which will be handed over when decommissioned in the coming months.

Rail Engineer • September 2015


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Rail Engineer • September 2015

A model of the DRC building.

When commissioned in 1968, asset rationalisation was crucial to support business investment in new signalling infrastructure. Accordingly, the Down platform at Swindon was taken out of use, and the double track route to Kemble was singled, though both facilities have recently been restored. In the late 1980s, the mighty workshops closed rendering the associated rail connections and signalling redundant. When resources and funding permit, the Society plans to roll-back the track layout to the mid 1980s to make the simulation more operationally interesting with Down trains once again snaking slowly across the Up main to call at the island platform, and with traffic to/from the works once more. Dominos will need to be updated and these may be obtained from other decommissioned panels or the original manufacturer Henry Williams, which today continues to manufacture Domino panels and spares as well as a wide portfolio of signalling, electrical and track products for the railway industry.

Finding a new home After surveying several potential sites, Didcot Railway Centre was chosen. It was very welcoming, has good security, and is a well-established railway centre rather than a preserved line so visitors can experience all the facets of running a railway as well as steam trains. DRC also showed great promise and enthusiasm for the project. Furthermore, space was available to enable a purpose-built building to be erected to house the panel. Another big plus point is that DRC is strong on education, encouraging students and pupils to learn and gain hands-on experience about many topics of science, technology and social history aspects of the curriculum at stages 1, 2 and 3 - an excellent way of inspiring the next generation of railway signal engineers and signallers. DRC is shoe-horned into the triangle of land bounded by the operational railway. Swindon Panel, which has signalled trains during the last half century, will be almost cheek by jowl with the 21st century equivalent - the nearby Thames Valley Signalling Centre. At the time of writing, the footings of the new building are complete and bricklaying is up to roof height. The building will contain the panel, with another room hosting a dedicated signalling display, including hands-on levers from which visitors can operate semaphore and colour light signals, a timeline of signalling technology development from the very early days, and the 1930s Bristol East diagram (which will be illuminated). The exhibition will focus on Safety, Technology and People. Construction of the new building is led by the DRC civil engineering manager. Volunteers have done a lot of the work, digging foundations and pouring concrete, whilst paid bricklayers and electricians are playing their part. An excellent scale model of the new building has been constructed by Ian Barefoot of Perfection in Miniature.

Call in the removal team Given that the panel is 28.5 feet long, 6 feet tall and weighs about 2.5 tons, early in the project it was thought that the panel could be broken into sections for easy transportation and re-assembly. However, Danny Scroggins elucidated to Rail Engineer that, although

the panel is of modular construction, the frame inside - casing, wiring, diagram, wooden surrounds - do not break contiguously. Taking it apart would require it to be stripped down to component parts, creating a laborious task to reconstruct, not to mention the need to virtually re-wire, the panel. The current wiring configuration within the panel also provides forensic evidence of historically interesting track layout and signalling changes over the years which would thus be lost during such a process. Accordingly, the panel will be moved in one piece. The existing levelling bolts in the corners of the sections will be wound out and replaced with longer ones to enable the panel to be jacked up with twelve people all winding simultaneously guided by laser to keep it square. Longitudinal beams will be put at front and back, with transoms connected beneath the panel. A combination of these and some end pieces makes for a totally rigid frame to which flangeless wheels will be affixed. Additionally, bars are to be fitted through the panel to secure it to its lifting frame. U-profile tubing placed on sleepers on the floor provide a short railway, facilitating roll-out of the panel onto the roof of the relay room below, the side windows of the operating floor having been knocked out for the purpose. Once on the roof it will again be jacked up to enable the wheels to be refitted at right angles. The U-tubing railway will be lifted and re-installed on the roof at right angles to the original alignment. A further ‘roll’ is then required to move the panel towards the rear edge of the building where it will be lifted off by Hiab crane onto a large lorry. P&D Specialist Services of Matlock, Derbyshire, has generously agreed to donate its lifting and haulage services for this purpose. This company has also prepared the necessary safety case documentation in respect of the whole removal process. As DRC has no road access, the lorry will take its load to Didcot West Yard where the panel will be off-loaded onto a flat-bed rail wagon which will be hauled through Didcot Parkway station and propelled into a siding at DRC which has track either side. Two or three rail-mounted boiler trolleys will be deployed to manoeuvre the panel into a position that is accessible by the DRC steam crane which will lift the panel once more onto the U-profile tubing rail system whence it will be rolled through the double doors

Rail Engineer • September 2015


Swindon station as displayed on the panel.

of the new building to the final resting place. Again it will be jacked up, the rails removed and the panel finally lowered and secured in position with the help of the levelling bolts. A complex and delicate operation. Brunel would be impressed!

Wiring maze The panel lamps and switches are wired up to tag blocks at the back of the panel, with a 24V AC common return for panel lamps. Wired to the other side of the tag blocks are multicore cables which go into the relay room below. The panel will henceforth be wired to computer interfaces which will be housed within the panel frame, but it is hoped that as much of the multicore cables as possible will be retained (still wired to tag blocks) to facilitate this process. Custom interface PCBs have been designed for the project by a team from rLab (Reading Hackspace) and manufactured in China. These consolidate the thousands of wires coming from the panel into a USB input for the computer. There are over 2,200 controls and indications on the panel. A ‘wiring and soldering’ group will be formed in the future for the huge amount of that type of work involved. A small demonstration panel with interface has been constructed by Jon Tillin of Signet Solutions, Derby, who has provided professional signal engineering support for the project. Input/output from the panel will be just a USB or Ethernet cable running under the floor to the computers in a side-room.

Simulation The intention is that a visitor operating the panel will have the same experience as a Swindon signaller has today, almost as though there are real trains out there under their control. On normal public open days, the simulator will run a pattern of trains commensurate with demonstrating the basics for understanding by visitors. For members, or more knowledgeable or adventurous visitors, it will even be possible to simulate events such as track circuit and point failures. There will be a separate room in the building for an operator to modify the program or telephone the signaller, and the braking and acceleration characteristics of the trains will be accurately modelled. Software has been designed by a team of railway signal engineering professionals and other interested and experienced members. The interlocking and panel controls and indications will be simulated by JMRI software which is primarily made for model railway digital control. Signalling design documents such as interlocking logic control tables have been obtained from individuals and Network Rail. The project has a number of members who did the original design work in the 1960s! Fortunately the Domino panel lamp bulbs have previously been converted from filament to LED. The overall power supply loading of the preserved panel is minimal, it being simply plugged into a 13 amp mains socket.

Funding and costs The Society is a registered charity and most of the funding so far has been raised through membership subscriptions, donations, raffles and merchandise. The total cost is around £30,000 which covers the cost of tooling, framework and other kit. Most of the labour is being given freely by members and supporters. Network Rail and Didcot Railway Society/Great Western Society are giving their wholehearted support to the project. First Great Western has donated free travel tickets for raffles. Running costs are expected to be minimal. Volunteers will staff the panel on days when open. Thanks to Danny Scroggins and Tim Miller of the Swindon Panel Society, for their help in the preparation of this article. More information can be found P&D at AD 90X130_Layout 1 24/08/2015 12:25 Page 1

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Setting a broad goal RSSB champions innovation



he drive for greater efficiencies in Control Period 5 (CP5) has hit the news recently. Network Rail has been criticised for not achieving targets which some claim were impossible anyway. Whatever the truth may be, the railway needs to save money. This can be achieved by working more efficiently and innovatively. If things continue to be done the way they always have been, there is no way that efficiency targets will be met. It’s basically a case of “innovate or fail”. But introducing innovation onto the railways has historically been difficult. There is a great deal of inertia, or at least there has been, and a fear that new ways of doing things, and new technology, are inherently unsafe until a great deal of testing has been undertaken to prove otherwise.

Role of RSSB

IPEMU battery train.

Naturally, the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) is heavily involved in this. On the one hand it is the protector of railway standards, on the other it is all in favour of innovation. Chris Fenton has been the RSSB Chief Executive since January 2014. The Board was set up in 2003 off the back of recommendations from the Cullen report. It has evolved through those twelve years, adding scope to its activities. “I suppose the two things that struck me were the technical credibility of the organisation and the commitment of its people,” Chris told Rail Engineer recently. “People like the fact that we’re cross-system, so

independent of any one perspective. We have our own experts and a strong evidence base which helps industry decision making.” “My first question on joining was - what is RSSB?” Chris smiled. “We carried out a survey and found that people liked what they knew about, but they didn’t know all the things we did and how they fitted in. We therefore had a communication job to do, fitting that into the context of the rest of the industry.” One of the ‘things’ that RSSB does is support innovation, although that may be included in the areas that need better communication. For example, the Future Railway Programme is an RSSB-run collaboration with Network Rail. The programme is an initiative which promotes innovation through collaborative support and a series of design competitions. “Going back four or five years, innovation wasn’t discussed nearly as much and it really had quite a low profile,” Chris stated. “There was a recognition that the industry needed to be more innovative and I think,

at that point, RSSB was actually quite influential in creating and developing with the industry the Rail Technical Strategy. That provided the confidence, the governance, to start saying we will define some money for innovation in the CP5 determination. That is leverage because we get match funding from it, so I think RSSB was influential at that point in time and should continue to be so. “If you look at some of the publicity that’s coming out now, everybody’s talking about innovation. There’s lots of examples and, as we get into the CP6 planning process, then the challenge is - how do they start getting used? Our role is one of working with the industry on particular projects, particularly around demonstrators, so that’s midtechnical level maturity projects. It’s not all blue-sky stuff, but how do we show something could work? “The battery-powered train was an excellent example of that. It’s not massively innovative technology, it’s technology that’s used on buses, but it’s about actually showing it could work on trains and helping people plan and think about electrification or some of the costs involved with intermediate gaps and the last parts of the line. I think it starts to open up 'people's' thoughts and that’s what innovation should be about. “Part of the challenge of innovation is not to be prescriptive about what we’re looking for. So it’s not going out saying: ‘I need a battery powered train’, it’s going out and saying: ‘How could we achieve the following?’

Rail Engineer • September 2015

“For example, one of the competitions that was run some time ago was looking at increasing capacity and a whole series of projects came from that. Some people were saying: ‘We think we can do some mathematical modelling that will improve signalling systems.’ Somebody else came back and said: ‘Actually, you could redesign the way points work and you’d be able to make them more efficient.’ “So, in part, innovation’s about setting that broad goal, what it is that you want as an outcome, and allowing a broad response - not just from the existing suppliers but others elsewhere, internationally and domestically. They may not be supplying them today, but they can say: ‘Have you thought about this?’ and I think it’s that type of framework that RSSB, in running those competitions, has been helpful.”

Cross fertilisation RSSB’s involvement is also useful when cross-industry cooperation is needed. For example, when testing the battery-operated train recently, Bombardier supplied the battery technology, Abellio made the train available and Network Rail facilitated the testing on the network. “In those circumstances, by using funding from within Network Rail’s settlement and from that provided by DFT, then encouraging industry match funding, we enabled a lot of things to start happening,” Chris explained. By putting together this type of combined and match funding, RSSB can support high benefit, high risk projects and opportunities. If they’re high benefit and low risk, somebody’s going to do them anyway. But in funding, or at least part-funding, high risk projects then there is always the chance that some will fail. That’s the nature of innovation. “In a lot of other industries, people will often talk about innovation as the small, incremental, continuous improvement tactic that happens with the engagement of employees and everything else,” Chris Fenton continued. “They call that innovation and then they talk more about research and technology and about how you develop the technologies that are necessary and therefore our language doesn’t always translate. What we’ve been

successful at doing is getting this onto the agenda. We’ll now start to go onto the next generation of working out how all these technologies map through, and we’ll continue to be involved with the debate with the train operators, with the supply chain and with Network Rail. “People always say the rail industry is risk averse but that’s not the characteristic I find in people. I think everyone is looking to try and do the right thing for the railway and for passengers. So I wouldn’t say that the individuals I meet have any lack of ambition and I think it’s entirely right that, when you’re implementing any changes, one assesses the risk on that. “If I’m flying on an aeroplane, then I’d quite like the manufacturer to be reasonably risk averse in the way they put it together. That doesn’t mean that aircraft makers aren’t innovative, so being innovative and being risk averse aren’t necessarily contradictory.” The Rail Technical Strategy aims to be clear in what is needed. There is no point in a company proposing a new type of toolbox if the industry already has 15 different toolboxes to choose from. Rather, the industry should say: “I’ve got a problem with this” and, if the suppliers move quickly and the approval process is robust, then that will accelerate innovation and implementation.


An entry in the competition for a new design of OLE mast.

Meetings are the lifeblood of RSSB.


Rail Engineer • September 2015

Out and about

RSSB has moved to Helicon, One South Place near Moorgate.

To get its message across, RSSB has arranged engagement days in Edinburgh, Manchester and Derby, working with people where they are rather than expecting them to travel to London. A lot more thinking is going into developing packages for training and guidance on topics such as making safe decisions and non-technical skills. Chris Fenton explained his thinking: “If you’re running a factory making widgets, then your logistics challenge is how you get your widgets to market. Well, we don’t make widgets, we make knowledge and understanding so communication is key.

“One of the organisational changes we made is to appoint John Abbot as our director of member engagement. He’s brought in Mike Carr and Alan Tordoff from Network Rail and D B Schenker with a specific remit to consider how we actually communicate. That’s a twoway process, both going and talking about what we’re doing but also listening and bringing back in the work that we do.”

Personnel development “That is one change as communication is something we have looked to improve. The other area is how we develop all our people, and we’ve spent a lot of time thinking on that, particularly as we get people approaching retirement. How do we develop our people internally and engage with the people externally that might do those roles? “If you walk around the office you’ll actually see we’ve got people from inside the industry and outside, we’ve got approaching 40% women now, we’ve appointed ten technical leads, three of whom are women. So rather than saying: ‘You have to move up to line management’ we’re now saying: ‘You can develop technically without necessarily being a line manager.’ Lots of organisations do that. “I’m also very much promoting the fact that people join us and they shouldn’t necessarily say: ‘That’s where I finish my career.’ When anybody starts in the organisation, in their first few weeks I sit down with them and with three or four people at a time and we just talk through where they’ve come from, what they bring and talk a little bit about the values and how we work as an organisation. “One of the things I say is: ‘We think RSSB’s a great place because you can build up a real appreciation of the rail industry here, you touch it in lots of ways’ whereas if you’re with a train operator you just see that bit of it, if you’re in Network Rail you see just the infrastructure. Here you can see everything, so it’s a great opportunity to learn a lot about the railway and how it works. “I think that people ought to be joining RSSB and then moving on in four or five years. One or two people are quite shocked. ‘I’ve only just joined last week and you’re trying to push me out!’ but we have that philosophy. “We’ve also got a number of secondees in here. Network Rail have got some people here, for example, which helps us because they bring some particular skills, and they tell us that this is actually part of their career development. “But it’s not just engineering. We’ve got the largest human factors team in the industry, fourteen people. Behaviours influence a lot of how you manage risk and understand safety. Experienced engineering is a really important part of what we do, but all the other parts are important too - we want the diversity in every aspect.” To make RSSB more efficient, Chris has also moved the operation from Islington, behind Angel tube station, to One South Place near Moorgate. 30,000 square feet has become 23,000 yet the number and size of the meeting rooms is unchanged. And meetings, both internal and with the wider industry, are largely what RSSB is all about. So Chris is doing his bit to keep costs down, and efficiency up. Now the rest of the rail industry has to follow suit.

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Rail Engineer • September 2015

Reliability through Redundancy T radition can be a great thing. Most of us enjoy our traditional Christmas lunch and are amused by such quirky British traditions as Morris dancing, Gloucestershire cheese rolling and piping in the haggis. The changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London’s Beefeaters certainly boost the British tourist industry. However, some traditions are not so great sitting in a traffic jam on a bank holiday Monday, for example. In railway engineering, many things are produced in a traditional way for very good reasons. They incorporate years of hard-won experience and there has to be a very good case to change the proven design of a safety-critical component. Railway switches and crossings are a good example. In the very early years, trains were generally switched from one track to another by stub points, in which a pair of rails was slid to align with the selected diverging rails. In addition to the impact load at the resultant gap, these points suffered from thermal expansion that led to a wide gap in winter and tight switches in summer. One of the first recorded uses of switch rails was on the Elgin Railway in West Fife in 1821. As the early railways were built, various types of points were subject to patents, including one of 1838 by Charles Fox for a design with a single switch rail. Today’s basic switch first appeared in patent filed in 1843 by Charles Wild. Since then, such switches have been developed into a robust design used worldwide, although they remain a significant cause of operational failures.

2013). Most of these concerned the manner in which movement authorities through junctions were issued. Loughborough University’s proposal was the only one that that concerned the more effective design and operation of points. Its remit was to undertake a fundamental re-think of railway track switching. Loughborough’s approach was to ask interested parties what they want from a set of points. The answer was instantaneous switching, no maintenance, no failures, no space requirement, zero energy usage, no speed restriction and zero cost. Achieving all these wishes is, of course, impossible - but well worth aiming for. After considering around 400 separate ideas, it became apparent that it might be possible to break with tradition by developing a radical new switch design that goes a long way to meeting these requirements. This included the reduction of switch movement time to under a second from around four seconds for a conventional switch, so offering a capacity benefit.


Inspired by redundancy Professor Roger Dixon is acting Dean of the Loughborough University’s School of Electronic, Electrical and Systems Engineering. He is also head of its Control Systems Research Group, which Roger describes as an interface between academia and industry as the focus is on applied research. This group is undertaking research projects for the rail, aerospace and energy industries. One example of its rail research is the development of a low adhesion detection system which monitors and analyses vehicle running dynamics to detect a low wheel / rail coefficient of friction before brakes are applied. A simulation using Vampire software has shown the viability of this concept. The researchers have a vision that, in the future, control engineering should be built into rail vehicle design using actively guided wheelsets that would provide extra space by eliminating bogies and give better ride performance.

Now for something completely different Trains running on plain line at two to three minute intervals can carry high volumes of traffic. However, somewhere along the line are nodes such as junctions and stations that significantly reduce capacity. In 2010, this issue was the subject of a call for proposals for research funding to overcome constraints caused by such nodes, issued by a joint initiative of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Strategic Partnership, Department for Transport (DfT) and RSSB (Rail Safety and Standards Board). This resulted in the award of five grants to investigate innovative radical approaches to reduce the impact of nodes (issue 101, March

Interlocking rail ends.

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Rail Engineer • September 2015

On the permanent way, the group’s revolutionary points mechanism, REPOINT, may well start to replace the traditional switch design in the near future. REPOINT (Redundantly Engineered POINTs) is the result of Loughborough University’s research into improved switches to address the junction node problem. Roger advised that this work is inspired by his group’s research into redundancy in aerospace systems. REPOINT’s development has been in two stages. From May 2011 to May 2013, the concept was developed using the grant from EPSRC, DfT and RSSB. In 2013, Future Railway gave the initiative an award from its ‘always open’ Rail Innovation Support Engine scheme. From June 2013 this award, combined with funding from HEFCE (The Higher Education Funding Council for England’s Higher Education Innovation Fund) has been used for laboratory work, the management of intellectual property issues and exploring how best to implement the concept.

Laboratory demonstrator of actuator unit.

21st century stub switch Commercial aircraft typically have triplex or quadruplex redundancy built into flight control systems. However, unlike flight control surfaces, a railway switch has to be locked in position for passing traffic. Hence, even if there were multiple actuators, these would need to act through a common locking mechanism that is a single point of failure. To avoid this problem, the Loughborough group has devised, and patented, a switch mechanism that is inherently failsafe. This uses a stub switch in which the fullsection switch rails mounted on locking blocks are lifted by cams and moved laterally from one locked position to another. A motor-driven actuator rack drives these cams. When lifted out of these blocks, the force required to back-drive the motor is less than that required to bend the rails during the switch movement. Hence, a power failure will result in the switch falling back to a safe locked state. The use of a stub switch with full section rails also eliminates the failure mode of a blockage between switch and stock rails. The cams and locking blocks are contained within an actuator bearer, the size of a sleeper, at the end of which is the drive motor. It is envisaged that there would typically be three actuator bearers at the end of the switch. Between these actuators and fixed sleepers there would be passive locking bearers and passive non-locking bearers (i.e. sliding bearers). The locking blocks would be positioned to allow the rail to bend into a transition curve and also provide turnouts with different cants if required. Another feature of this design is that the switch can have multiple turnouts.

As a roller bearing forms an integral part of the cam, there are virtually no friction losses. Unlike a conventional switch, there are no sliding surfaces. Hence, energy use is low. After the switch is lifted to its high point, the raised switch rails drive it down to its new position. As they do so, the actuator motor acts as a brake to reduce impact on the locking blocks. In this locked position, the cams are a few millimetres below the locking block and so take no impact load from passing trains. This arrangement offers maintenance advantages as bearings have a long life and their wear is predictable. In addition to other advantages listed above, this mechanism can move the switch in a fraction of a second. Yet despite all these advantages, it seems that Loughborough has just re-invented the stub switch which was not suitable for the traffic of the 19th century, let alone that of the 21st century.

Interlocking rail ends Research and development engineer, Sam Bemment, explained that this is not a problem for REPOINT as the group has designed and patented an arrangement of interlocking rail ends. These incorporate a sliding arrangement similar to a breather switch. The fixed rail end incorporates a raised V-section onto which REPOINT’s lift and drop mechanism places a

recessed V-section in the switch rail end. This arrangement both allows for thermal expansion, avoids impact load and provides an additional locking mechanism. Maintenance and installation of REPOINT has been carefully considered. The actuator bearer is a sealed unit containing the actuation rack, cams and locking blocks. The motor and rack drive is at the end of the bearer and so could be in the cess. The motor can be replaced whilst the switch is in service, as this would not affect operation of the other actuators. Replacement of the actuator bearer would be a similar operation to replacing a sleeper although the switch would first have to be raised off its locking blocks to the mid-point position. For this, the control system would incorporate a maintenance position. During tamping operations, a locking pin would be inserted so that the actuator bearer would lift with the rail. These locking pins would also be used during installation to enable the switch unit to be handled as a track panel.

Getting to TRL9 Loughborough University’s Control Systems Research Group has developed the REPOINT concept to the stage that the concept has been validated through simulations and laboratory demonstration of an actuator bearer and its control system. It is thus at technology readiness

Rail Engineer • September 2015


Track Switching Wishlist

level (TRL) 4 - “Technology component validation in lab”. Much needs to be done before it reaches TRL9 - “Actual technology system qualified through successful operation in railway environment”. The layout of the laboratory demonstrator is 384 mm gauge, which is that of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch Railway (RHDR) that had been identified as a possible technology demonstrator site, although the actuation has been designed for a standard gauge railway. Manufacturers have also shown an interest in producing a standard gauge REPOINT prototype and both Network Rail and Transport for London have expressed significant interest in the concept. As a result, the RHDR demonstrator step may not be required. The production of a prototype switch is likely to cost a large six-figure sum and further work to get REPOINT to TRL9 will cost much more and take years. Roger has no doubt that the benefits are massive but obtaining the required investment to realise these benefits is a challenge. For this reason, the University has commissioned Interfleet Technology to produce a business case for REPOINT. Roger confirmed that the rail industry has expressed significant interest in the REPOINT concept. This has resulted in a suggestion

that this radical concept would be best trialled in stages. For this reason, the University is developing “REPOINT Light” in which actuator bearer actuator units will move switch blades in a convention point design. This will lose some of the stub switch benefits, but allows demonstration of the new bearer concept as the first step with the possibility of developing the full REPOINT vision later.

Ticking the boxes REPOINT ticks all the boxes from the points wishlist derived at the early stage of the project and so has the potential to deliver huge cost savings with a significant increase in reliability and safety. Yet it has a long way to go to prove that it offers a robust alternative to conventional switches. The investment to do this through trials, testing and certification must be justified. When certification is obtained, it is highly likely that, after 150 years, it will be time to break with tradition to change the design of railway switches. Who knows what other traditional designs might benefit from the application of systems engineering practice used in other industries? No doubt, the answer lies with Universities and other research institutions which are challenging tradition as have Roger Dixon, Sam Bemment and the team at Loughborough’s Control Systems Research Group.



Instantaneous Switching

Around 0.2 seconds compared with typically 4 seconds for conventional design

No Maintenance

Minimal as there is no requirement to check clearances, loose bolts or for lubrication requirement.

No Failures

Triplex redundancy, other failure modes eliminated, including those that have resulted in fatal accidents. Actuator is protected from weather in a sealed unit, no switchblade gap in which items can be trapped, no linkages to work loose.

No Space Required

Mechanism takes up little more space than existing sleepers

Zero Energy Usage

No friction losses from sliding switches. Energy use could almost be zero if actuator motor regenerates power whilst braking during downward movement

No Speed Restriction

Where space allows

Zero Cost

Significantly reduced cost from fewer component parts, e.g. no external locking mechanism required and easier installation

Other Benefits

Can provide multiple turnouts Turnouts can have differing cants

Locking block raised slightly above roller cam.


Rail Engineer • September 2015

TRACK< &future



n the days of British Rail, research into railway matters was all tied up. There was British Rail Research and that was it! Actually the organisation didn’t do a bad job, and many engineers around the network had great respect for their colleagues in Derby.

As privatisation approached, this all changed. The Government decided that BR Research was to be amongst the early sales of the BR organisation’s component parts, and in the event it was purchased by AEA and became AEA Technology Rail. This really ended the era of co-ordinated railway research as we had known it hitherto. The privatised organisation had to act commercially, and so it concentrated on selling the established expertise it inherited from BR Research, developing that expertise in commercially viable ways, and carrying out research on commission when another party was prepared to engage for such to occur. This left a hole which did not seem to be recognised for some years, all the newly structured rail organisations being very busy sorting themselves out post privatisation. It could be argued that it was really only the crisis over so called “gauge corner cracking” (more properly, rolling contact fatigue damage) after the Hatfield crash that led to a change. I well remember being involved in discussions after that crash, debating who could be engaged by Railtrack to assist us to properly understand and manage the phenomenon. In the end we engaged TTCI, the research organisation of the American Association of Railroads as a part of the team to do this. It was interesting to note then how the private and disparate US railroad companies had long ago set up a jointly owned rail research body to support their businesses!

Whatever the deciding factor, various people awoke to the need to resume proper, targeted rail research in the UK. One of the organisations to realise this was the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the EPSRC. A dozen years ago or so, this body decided that it needed to kick start university research into rail matters. As a result, Rail Research UK was formed, and the Universities of Southampton, Birmingham, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester Metropolitan and Imperial College London (later joined by Newcastle) collaborated through this body to conduct relevant research for about eight years. Each university specialised in a different area of rail interest, Southampton dealing with infrastructure, for example, Nottingham human factors, and Birmingham command and control.

> Track 21 The background just described led in about 2010 to the start of a project named ‘Track 21’. This was a five year research project whose core funding was provided by an EPSRC grant of £3 million. The project was aimed at improving the performance of the existing track infrastructure in the UK. It was recognised that a fundamental reconstruction of the network, such as conversion to a ballastless trackform, was not realistically going to happen. It was therefore well worth taking a look at how ballasted track could be improved to make it longer lasting, more reliable and more economical. The results of the programme were presented to Network Rail staff at The Quadrant in July 2015 by the TRACK21 team. Briefly, the project considered many factors affecting the existing UK track infrastructure. These included the behaviour of embankments and the effects that trees have on this. The possibility of a better ballast specification was examined, as were the potential use of under sleeper pads, an improved ballast profile and the use of fibre reinforcement in the ballast. A key factor in improving the economic efficiency of UK ballasted track is the need to maintenance tamp frequently. This is expensive, requires track occupations that would be better avoided, and damages the ballast, shortening its life. If the track geometry could be made more stable it might even be possible to avoid the need for ballast cleaning or renewal at the midpoint in the life of the track. This requirement is currently a major factor in both the cost and the utility of ballasted track. Removing the need would save much cost and greatly reduce the necessity for disruptive engineering works and track possessions. Track 21 has generated some useful ideas about how this might be achieved. Key outputs included: »» improved understanding and better design techniques for the use of discrete piles to stabilise earthworks; »» clear guidance on the best management of trees on embankment slopes or in proximity to the track; »» improved understanding of embankment slips; »» clear evidence of the effect of increased axle loads on old embankments; »» evidence supporting the benefits of resilient under-sleeper pads; »» evidence of potential benefits from the addition of smaller particles to the ballast grading, and of the possible beneficial use of fibre reinforcement in ballast; »» evidence that use of a biaxial geogrid in the track structure reduces long term settlement and that further research

Rail Engineer • September 2015


should be conducted into the use of triaxial geogrids; »» demonstration of the benefits of constraining the ballast by means of side restraint or by flatter side slopes; »» understanding of the mechanisms whereby the track geometry deteriorates, for example through variability of substructure; »» demonstration of how track deflection measurements from lineside monitoring and geometry data from measurement trains can be correlated; »» demonstration that ballast fouling by fines actually increases stiffness and reduces long term settlement; »» greater understanding of track-based noise emission and how it may be affected by ballast grading and track renewal.


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Rail Engineer â&#x20AC;˘ September 2015

In all, it came up with some useful guidance and a lot of pointers to potential areas of better understanding and possibilities for improved engineering. Many synergies were created between organisations. The steering group alone, chaired by Network Rail, involved 10 organisations from infrastructure owners to contractors and suppliers. In addition there was an international scientific panel chaired by HS2 and incorporating universities from Sweden, Portugal and Australia together with Systra from France and Deutsche Bahn from Germany. The results were sufficient to encourage the EPSRC to continue to fund the work it had started.

Track to the Future This is a new project, largely funded by an EPSRC grant of ÂŁ5 million, but with total funding of over ÂŁ8 million with industry contributions taken into account. The project is being taken forward by the same universities as Track 21, with the addition of Huddersfield for its expertise on the wheel-rail interface. The team is led by Professor William Powrie of Southampton. This project has three main themes, Track for Life (design for the degraded state), Noiseless Track and Better Crossing Design. It will focus on measuring things and explaining why things work (or indeed, why they do not and how they can be improved). A priority is to take on the concept described earlier of reducing tamping and eliminating the mid-life ballast treatment, making the track ballast last as long as the other track components. This will form a key component of the Track for Life theme, together with the search for improved track forms and components and further drives to better understand track stiffness, settlement and standard deviation.

It must be hoped that the industry devotes the necessary resources to supporting this important project. That must include a serious amount of time committed to the project by track engineers who are involved currently in track maintenance and renewals. Track to the Future is an exciting opportunity for the rail industry, and in particular it offers the UK a chance to really examine why our track system costs appear to be higher than those of similar rail networks in mainland Europe.


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Rail Engineer • September 2015

Freight train

of the future DAVID SHIRRES


he prosaic rail freight wagon rarely features in the pages of Rail Engineer. With so many stories about all aspects of railway engineering, this is perhaps not surprising. But rail freight is important. It accounts for 11% of UK rail train revenue and has the potential to take goods off the roads, to save fuel and CO2 emissions.

Final Bogie Design.

Yet, in Europe, rail freight has stagnated and accounts for only 10% of freight transport. This concerns the European Commission (EC) which has an objective that 30% of road freight movements over 300km should shift to other modes by 2030. To achieve this, an EC Regulation came into force in 2010 requiring dedicated freight corridors to provide seamless rail freight services. Another European initiative is the Sustainable Freight Railway (SUSTRAIL). This is a €9.4 million four-year project, launched in 2011, to design a freight vehicle track system with improved reliability at reduced cost. It was part of the seventh Framework Programme for EU research (FP7) for which the EC contributed €6.6 million.

Whole system approach SUSTRAIL aims to increase rail freight performance through a whole system approach which involves a number of work packages. The current system was benchmarked (WP1) and duty requirements established (WP2). Then two parallel but linked packages considered the freight train of the future (WP3) and sustainable track (WP4), after which a business case (WP5) was developed and the new vehicle and track systems were tested (WP6). Thirty-one organisations in twelve countries shared the work for which the project coordinator was Consorzio Train, an Italian consortium of rail research institutions. UK participants were Network Rail (technical coordinator),

Tata Steel and the Universities of Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield and Huddersfield. Initial benchmarking involved Network Rail and the Universities of Leeds and Newcastle. This analysed three selected freight routes in Bulgaria, Spain and Britain (Southampton and Felixstowe to Warrington). The capacity, vehicle types and infrastructure characteristics of these routes were assessed to determine duty requirements from which key performance requirements were derived. For the SUSTRAIL vehicle, these were a 20% reduction in energy consumption, reduced track damage with lateral forces reduced by 50%, improved braking with wheel-slide protection, running up to 140km/h (for 17 tonne axle weight) and less noise. The University of Huddersfield’s Institute of Railway Research led WP3, the development of the SUSTRAIL freight vehicle. Its director, Professor Simon Iwnicki, commented that it is understandable that freight vehicle manufacturers are a conservative lot as their vehicles operate in a harsh environment with practical maintenance and operational constraints. Change is expensive and its benefits are not always easy to demonstrate. This was a key factor in the WP3 technology review that considered availability for mass production, reliability and maintainability and concluded that innovations were required for running gear, wheelsets, braking systems, body and bogie structure and condition monitoring.

Rail Engineer • September 2015


Improved suspension Unlike passenger vehicles, freight vehicle suspensions experience a large difference between tare and laden weight. The standard Y25 bogie accommodates this by nested primary suspension coil springs with an inner spring that engages progressively as the wagonload increases. Each axlebox has a single inclined ‘Lenoir link’ that transfers some of the vertical load onto an axle box friction face to provide vertical and lateral damping proportional to vehicle weight. However, this gives a high longitudinal stiffness once its clearance is exceeded. Simon explained that, after considering various options, it was felt that a double Lenoir link suspension, allowing additional freedom of movement, was the best way of lowering longitudinal stiffness. The optimisation of the double Lenoir link suspension was the result of several university partners undertaking computer simulations with key parameters varied to assess their effect on performance. These included the vertical coil stiffness, Lenoir link angle and length, friction coefficient of the sliding face and bump stop vertical clearance. However, these simulations also showed the double link suspension to have a lower critical speed than that of the single link. To control stability, an interaxle linkage was required which also provides passive steering.

Further simulations determined the optimum lateral stiffness characteristics of this linkage and showed that longitudinal stiffness was not required, thus simplifying the linkage design. These also showed that the optimised double Lenoir link and linkage had a critical speed of over 140km/h. Work to develop this suspension was undertaken by the University of Huddersfield, Russia’s St Petersburg State Transport University, the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden and REMARUL Engineering of Romania. Vehicle dynamic simulations used track data from typical UK routes together with new and worn wheel and rail profiles. They provided assessments of ride performance and of track damage such as T gamma (the contact patch frictional forces that causes RCF - rolling contact fatigue), along with track vertical and lateral forces. These simulations showed that the SUSTRAIL vehicle met the EN14363 ride standard and had a stable and track friendly bogie with particularly low lateral forces.

Coated wheelsets Italian rail wheel manufacturer Lucchini provided innovative wheelsets developed with assistance from the Polytechnic University of Milan. They were designed for a 25 tonne axle load and 160km/h running and had an optimised wheel web to reduce mass and noise. Lucchini’s Syope® viscoelastic polymer noise absorption coating was applied to the wheel web, giving a further noise reduction. The axle was also coated by LURSAK®, a 4.5mm thick reinforced epoxy resin that offers protection against corrosion and impact. This was tested by cannon firing ballast stones at up to 390km/h. Further tests showed that cracks did not propagate from the light damage (depth 0.5 mm) sustained by coated axles from such high impact tests after a simulated million kilometres running. However, cracks did propagate from impact damage on uncoated axles. Hence, this coating reduces the risk of failed axles and could potentially reduce maintenance costs by extending ultrasonic testing frequencies.

Wheelsets with specially coated axles.

SUSTRAIL vehicle on test track.


Rail Engineer • September 2015

More traffic, less deterioration

SUSTRAIL Wagon Brake Schematic.

Energy harvesting


With no power supply, freight trains cannot use modern, electronically controlled braking systems. Hence, to meet the requirement for wheelslide protection and load-controlled braking, energy harvesting was needed. This is provided by an axlemounted generator with a battery and power management system. Wagon braking is controlled by an EDS 300 hybrid brake system produced by Keschwari Electronic Systems (KES GmbH). This unit has both an electronic and backup pneumatic distributor valve and adjusts braking according to load. Its wheel-slide protection uses speed sensors on each axle and electronically controlled dump valves. The unit also has built-in diagnostics and a data logger. Real-time condition monitoring also required a vehicle power supply. On the SUSTRAIL vehicle, the KES 300 unit provides braking data whilst MERMEC supplied hotbox temperature sensors and accelerometers for derailment and vehicle stability monitoring. The Polytechnic University of Milan is also developing a real-time cracked axle detection methodology. To provide real-time condition monitoring, wireless data transfer was also validated as part of the project.

To save energy and reduce track damage, Consorzio Train and the University of Newcastle undertook a structural design review of the vehicle body and bogie that was validated by finite element analysis. This showed that, for example, there could be an 18% reduction in the bogie frame lateral beam weight if web thickness, flange width and thickness were reduced and higher tensile steel was used. Similarly, the use of such steel whilst changing the section and dimensions of the lateral wagon side beam could reduce its weight by 40%. The high strength steel used for lightweighting was RQT®701 by Tata Steel. Having developed the required innovations, the SUSTRAIL vehicle with its modified Y25 bogies was constructed at the REMARUL workshops in Romania. In May, it was tested on the Romanian Railway Authority’s testing centre at Faurei that has a 13.7 kilometre ring with a maximum speed of 200km/h. This included running and braking tests of the loaded vehicle at 140km/h. Indeed the vehicle was perfectly stable at 150km/h, the highest speed attainable with the test locomotive. As a benchmark, tests were also undertaken on a conventional wagon for comparison with the SUSTRAIL vehicle.

While the SUSTRAIL vehicle work was undertaken in close co-operation with Network Rail, the company also led WP4 to assess how the railway infrastructure could accommodate more traffic with reduced track deterioration. This included the development of performance-based design principles for resilient track based on a failure mode and effects analysis. However, this was recognised to be strongly dependant on the quality and details of the input to this analysis. Specific innovations considered by WP4 included multifunction geotextiles and wayside monitoring. Geotextiles which incorporated optical fibres to monitor movement were installed in an embankment near Chemnitz, Germany in 2014 and were proven not to be susceptible to damage by the heavy machinery used on the site. Wayside monitoring stations installed on several routes in Sweden measure vertical and lateral forces per wheel, angle-of-attack and wheel defects. The Luleå Railway Research Centre evaluated this data to identify specific vehicle defects and propose vehicle service limits. The SUSTRAIL track innovations are to be taken forward by Network Rail. The final innovation considered was the installation of premium rail steels on curves less than 1,200 metres. The results from this were fed into the business case and outlined below.

Making the case The pan-European SUSTRAIL initiative has produced a rail freight vehicle with the potential for large cost and energy savings. However, realising these benefits is perhaps more of a challenge. Hence, the SUSTRAIL project includes a further work package to make the business case for its innovations. This assessed life cycle costs over a 30-year period for three scenarios: 1) the SUSTRAIL vehicle only; 2) the vehicle plus Premium Rail Steel on curves less than 1,200 metres; 3) vehicle, premium rails on curves and 140km/h running. The business case included a RAMS (Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Safety) analysis and assessed the

Rail Engineer • September 2015

benefits against the requirements of the three selected freight routes. This work concluded that, on curves at current speeds, the use of premium rails (such as HP335 and MHH375 by Tata Steel) offers a 61% reduction in life cycle costs. It also showed that, over a 30-year period, a SUSTRAIL vehicle would have a 63% reduction in vehicle maintenance costs and its availability would be 99% compared with 95% for the benchmark wagon. However, with the SUSTRAIL vehicle costing up to 75% more than a conventional wagon, its payback is 23 years. This assessment does not take account of its reduced track damage that is generally not the owner’s problem. The business case considers that the SUSTRAIL vehicle needs a payback period under eight years if it is to be adopted by industry. It considers this can be done by reducing capital costs and introducing track access charges that reward track-friendly vehicles. In April last year, Network Rail changed its freight access charge regime to do just this rather than to charge based on axle load. Now, a


Finite element analysis of lightweight bogie design.

complex formula is applied to each vehicle type to assess vertical and lateral track forces as well as the T gamma that causes RCF. Simon advised that Sweden is the only other European country with a similar access-charging regime. Clearly, this is an area where European harmonisation is needed. SUSTRAIL has proved to be a worthwhile initiative in which Network Rail and British Universities

have played a major role. The project has considered the engineering of both track and rail freight vehicles from first principles to deliver significant improvements. However, some of these improvements may not be realised unless track access charges are changed to provide the required incentive. This requires the rest of Europe to follow Network Rail’s example of encouraging trackfriendly bogies.


Rail Engineer • September 2015

From little

acorns... W

hen the railways were privatised in 1996, it brought about the realisation that no-one could do everything. The infrastructure owners (Railtrack and then Network Rail) needed contractors to do the major projects for them. Those contractors needed subcontractors to bring specialist skills. They in turn needed to hire-in particular equipment and machinery, and even-more-specialist talent. And then the whole scheme needed to be designed, and safety checked, and tested. So a whole different supply industry grew up which hadn’t been there before. Existing companies formed new divisions. Staff left their longtime employers to join others, or to set up on their own. Companies broke apart, or joined together. It was fertile ground for anyone with a good idea and sound backing. Many start-up businesses failed, as well as a few well-established ones, but others went from strength to strength.

An eye for an opening In 2007, a 25-year-old machine operator named Paul O’Donnell saw an opportunity. He realised that the field of conductor rail renewals wasn’t well covered and decided to step into that arena.

Forming Pod-Trak (for Paul O’Donnell - get it?), he launched the business as a specialist supplier to carry out conductor rail renewals on the Docklands Light Railway. At a time when the standards of customer service, safety and reliability were being pushed higher and higher, Pod-Trak quickly became known for its installation capabilities of overhead lines and conductor rails. Since then, the company has branched out to become a multidiscipline provider, delivering small to medium sized works packages which include a range of specialist services. Success has continued following a number of high-profile contract wins, which have in turn led to the company growing its workforce and expanding at an impressive rate.

Retaining its expertise within DC and AC electrical installations, to date Pod-Trak has delivered conductor rail installation projects including aluminium and steel type rail. It can supply a complete installation package for the rail and associated cabling, as well as provide support for smaller maintenance works. Pod-Trak also undertakes all aspects of overhead line installation and maintenance, communication installation services, P-way services and civil engineering works such as UTX installations, lineside civils and route works, foundations and concrete works, drainage projects and much more. New staff have been recruited to help deliver its increasing workload, including Clodagh Connolly to head up the company’s HSQE department. Recognising the demand on specialist resources in the electrification fields, Pod-Trak has also employed a further 20 trainee linesmen as part of its growth in the UK’s overhead line market.

Rail Engineer • September 2015

On the move Pod-Trak’s move into bigger premises in Manchester has allowed for a larger plant workshop to become operational as well as for the opening of large storage areas for the maintenance and upkeep of its expanding Transport and On-Track Plant departments. To complement its development in the North West, PodTrak moved into new offices in London, where it is also now developing its own in-house training. “I believe that we have found our place in the market by engaging the right staff; I feel people are the cornerstones of businesses like ours,” Mr O’Donnell said. “Each year since we started, we have bettered our business plan and this has been achieved by sticking to our core values and adopting a ‘safe will do’ attitude throughout everything we do. “We try to embed this culture into all our staff and know that, by performing to the best of our ability, we will collectively be a stronger, more successful company going forward. “I am confident we are in a position to make the most of the opportunities that will no doubt present themselves over the coming years and, with the support of the government to ensure the UK rail market becomes a global leader, the future of the industry looks bright. “At Pod-Trak, we are seeing the results of our hard work paying off with a number of recent contract awards and we will continue to ensure plans are in place to maintain that trend.” Pod-Trak’s success over the last eight years is testament to the company’s steadfast approach to providing the best possible service across a number of key disciplines, all the while ensuring it is putting in place an experienced team to cope with increased demand.

As a company, it is rapidly becoming a ‘go-to’ supplier in the UK rail market and, with the government’s acknowledgement of the need to act to ensure the industry’s supply chain is utilised effectively, that shows no sign of slowing down. Indeed, under Mr O’Donnell’s stewardship, Pod-Trak’s rise looks set to gather momentum. As Paul O’Donnell said: “The rail industry in the UK is going from strength to strength and we have laid the foundations over the last few years to ensure we are at the front of the queue when contractors come calling.”



Rail Engineer • September 2015

Are you interesting?


hat? More rail industry awards? Aren’t there enough of them already? Yes, but these are the Most Interesting Awards - the industry’s awards-with-a-difference. Unlike typical awards events, there is no entry requirement, and no need to spend days preparing entry forms. Rail Media, as the UK’s leading specialist media company in rail (and by quite a long way, we’re pleased to say), knows what is going on in the industry. So we can put a list of projects, products and initiatives together better than anyone else. If you spoke with us about an article in Rail Engineer, RailStaff or Global Rail News in the last twelve months, you entered automatically - even if you didn’t realise it! The other way in which the Most Interesting Awards are different is that each award is just that - presented for something that is Most Interesting. So a major project worth billions, with BIG Conglomerated plc as its principal contractor, which is being delivered by traditional means using tried-andtested technology, won’t necessarily win. It’s not Interesting. But a new product from A. Minnow Engineering, working from a shed in the Black Country, which will cut costs by 40% and save the industry millions, is Most Interesting and has a good chance of winning. So once again the Rail Media team has sat down, drunk coffee and tea, argued, fallen out, slammed doors - and come up with a short list of what was truly interesting between October 2014 and September 2015. Which of the selected entrants is actually the Most Interesting, as chosen by a panel of independent judges, will be revealed on Thursday 19 November. This year the Awards will be presented at the Rail Exec Club

Gala Dinner - to be held at Derby’s iconic Roundhouse. So have a look at the short list. If you were involved with any of these projects, products and initiatives then let us know. You could be part of a very successful evening, and we won’t even ask you to wear a black tie! If you haven’t been lucky this time, did you tell us about what you were up to this year? But come along anyway to the networking event of the year and meet your colleagues in the industry. See you at Derby Roundhouse, Thursday 19 November, 18:30. Be there! To book tickets, confirm your involvement in an entry or just ask questions, contact:


Rail Engineer • September 2015


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Rail Engineer • September 2015

Most Interesting Awards 2015

Shortlist The Most Interesting initiative in safety and sustainability

Most Interesting approach to train operations

»» »» »» »» »» »»

»» »» »» »» »» »»

Selby Swing Bridge Refurbishment (Termarust) Audio Guides to Stations for the Sight Impaired Red Light Cameras at Level Crossings Wallasea Island Closed-Cell Cable Insulation (Armacell) PDSW (Planning & delivering Safe Work)

Chaffers Lane Level Crossing IPEMU Battery Train COMPASS Alert Gateway for Data Monitoring (Telent) Northern Line goes CBTC Introduction of Class 319 (Northern Rail)

The Most Interesting original design

Most Interesting community engagement activity

»» »» »» »» »» »»

»» »» »» »» »» »»

ECML Capacity Enhancement Tomorrow’s Train Design Today VR Design for British Bullet Train (Hitachi) Verve - Train for the UK (Siemens) SUSTRAIL Closed Loop Pantograph (Brecknell Willis)

Earls Court Station New Route to the West Borders Railway Lend A Helping Hand Campaign TravelSafe Policing Crossrail Archaeology

Most Interesting development in support equipment

Most Interesting major infrastructure project

»» »» »» »» »» »»

»» »» »» »» »» »»

Mobile Flash Butt Welder Forensic Engineering (Atkins NIC) RETB in Scotland Road-Rail Land Rovers (Aquarius) Off Load Switching (Morris Line Engineering) Level Crossing Barrier Mechanism Improvements (Howells)

Selby Swing Bridge Refurbishment Birmingham New Street Station Stockley Viaduct Harbury Landslip Winchburgh Tunnel Carmuirs Tunnel

Most Interesting training and development programme

Most Interesting new product

»» »» »» »» »» »»

»» »» »» »» »» »»

National Training Academy (Linbrooke) Mobile Technology Training Centre (Westermo) ORBIS Work Orders Knowledge Without Borders Railway Challenge (IMechE + entrants) Brathay Trust

ERTMS (Hitachi) Fuel-cell Powered Trains (Alstom) High Performance Track (Tata Steel) New Interface for Old SSI (Park Signalling) Oscar Helmet (Colas) Spacetherm Insulation for Points Heaters (A Proctor)

Most Interesting international participation by a UK company

Most Interesting Innovation

»» »» »» »» »» »»

»» »» »» »» »» »»

Liefkenshoek Rail Link Frecciarossa 1000 Rhine-Ruhr Express Norwegian ERTMS Programme Montpellier Bypass California High-Speed Rail

Blown Fibre (Emtelle) Rail Adhesion Simulation (ESG) Unlocking Innovation (RIA 3D Planning Pre-Assembly (Siemens) Obstacle Detection on level Crossings REPOINT (Loughborough University)

Most Interesting railway infrastructure development

Most Interesting other thing we saw in 2015

»» »» »» »» »» »»

»» »» »» »» »» »»

Markshall Farm Farnworth Tunnel Platform Extensions on North London Line Train Detection in Summit Tunnel Scarborough Bridge Stafford Area Improvement Programme

Watercress Line Signalling Channel Tunnel Fire Supression Rope Access Inspections New Approach to Asset Management (ORBIS) Moulsford Viaduct Chris Scott Inventor


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Rail Engineer • September 2015 Common Lizard.



why railway banks make good reptile habitats

here are six native reptile species in the UK – four without legs: grass snake, adder, smooth snake and slow-worm, and two with legs: common lizard and sand lizard. The odd one out is of course the slow-worm, which is strictly speaking not a snake, but a legless lizard!



All of these reptiles are protected by law as they are classified as endangered. Much of their natural habitat has now disappeared, but wildlife often finds a way to adapt to new situations and reptiles are no exception. Heathland, moorland and sand dunes are the natural homes for reptiles, but all of these habitats are progressively under threat from development such as wind farms, housing projects, new road and rail infrastructure and leisure facilities. However, in contrast to some of the other types of development, railway lines provide a significant opportunity for reptiles for a number of reasons.

Favourable habitat Rather like ourselves, reptiles favour dry, sunny, unshaded, yet sheltered locations, therefore south-facing is best. Topography is important; they favour ground that is undulating, with banks, hummocks and hollows. Reptiles are also attracted to ‘edges’ between types of vegetation (known as ‘ectones’). It follows that ideal reptile habitat has a variable vegetation structure, including plants of different shapes and sizes, tangled and thorny areas, as well as bare and dead patches that they can use for basking in the sun. Railway embankments, particularly in rural areas, attract a range of plants that provide essential cover, such as bracken and bramble. The management practice of rotational tree felling, for reasons of safety, produces coppiced stems of sycamore, oak and other trees as well as the resulting log piles that are useful for hibernation. Scrubby pioneers such as buddleia and elder thrive, creating further structure and

attracting insect life. Bare patches of rubble and ground-up trunks are ideal for basking (reptiles are coldblooded and must artificially raise their body temperature). The extent of this habitat and its connectivity with similar features are important elements: the area must be large enough to support a population. This applies more to snakes than lizards; snakes can cover long distances of around four kilometres. Connectivity with similar habitats is essential for populations to spread and colonise new areas: if an area of good habitat is surrounded by intensive farmland, for example, reptile populations may find it difficult to establish themselves. Railway banks can provide both extensive and connected habitat, and as they are fairly inaccessible to humans, the chance of disturbance is small.

Not easily seen – or surveyed Reptiles hibernate from early October to the end of March, and they largely stay out of sight until the ground warms up, around June. Piles of leaf litter, dead bracken, sticks, logs and broken rubble all provide excellent hibernation sites. The young are produced in June or July and are born either as eggs or tiny replicas of their parents. Reptiles can be observed on sunny summer days, though they are often overlooked, being experts at both camouflage and ‘playing possum’. You would be very unlikely to spot a reptile from the comfort of your railway carriage! Ecologists carry out their reptile surveys at this key time, trapping and releasing the active individuals. On railway banks in the UK they would be less likely to record grass snakes, unless damp and wet areas are also nearby, but they

Rail Engineer • September 2015

Grass Snake.

frequently record common lizard, adder and slow-worm, which have fairly broad ranges across the country. Adders are more restricted to southern counties and the northeast, whilst sand lizards and smooth snakes are so rare that they may only be found on railway banks in Dorset, Hampshire and Surrey, with the sand lizard also occurring on the Sefton coast between the estuaries of the Mersey and Ribble in north-west England. Reptiles, when they find the right circumstances, also favour brownfield sites in urban locations. Recently, ecologists surveying for the North London line reported that nine stations along the route had good potential to support reptile populations, particularly where the station was proximal to large areas rich in biodiversity, such as Hampstead Heath. So next time you stare out of the window at passing embankments and cuttings, give a thought to our native reptiles, hiding in the undergrowth or basking in the sun – largely untroubled by man. Melanie Oxley is a freelance writer for The Ecology Consultancy


Grass Snake.

Reptile facts »» Six native species – grass snake, adder, common lizard, slow-worm, sand lizard, smooth snake, all protected under UK and European law »» Sand lizard and smooth snake are critically rare and are specially protected under European law »» Reptiles are cold-blooded: their bodies need to be warmed up by the sun in order to engage in activities »» Almost all reptiles native to the UK are completely harmless – only the adder has poisonous venom »» Sand lizards and grass snakes lay small white leathery eggs, but the other UK reptiles give birth to live young.

Female Adder.


Rail Engineer • September 2015



Entries can still be made by emailing the photograph, in full resolution (largest file size) to Don’t forget to include your name, the subject and the make and model of phone it was taken on. Full competition rules are in issue 128 (June 2015) and there is a guide on how to take good photos on a phone from professional Paul Bigland in the same issue. Meantime, to whet your appetite, here are some recent entries. Enjoy!





ith Rail Engineer’s photographic competition closing on 30 September, time is running out for those who still want to enter. The competition is for photographs taken on smartphones, not stand-alone cameras. It is designed to show that good photos can be taken on these devices and that poor-quality images are mainly down to poor technique, even though camera features on phones can be quite basic. The competition closes on 30 September.










Rail Engineer • September 2015


photography competition Send in your smartphone photos to Entries must be sent before midnight on 30th September 2015.


KAZAM Tornado 350 smartphone


‘ You don‘ t take a photograph, You make it.‘


Rail Engineer • September 2015



£43,000 plus benefits

Virgin Trains is the only UK TOC to operate a fleet of tilting trains and the Fleet Management Group’s (FMG) job is to provide the right number of these trains in a safe, clean and reliable condition to our customers, every day. As a Systems Engineer you will support this vision by being responsible for all engineering improvements to our fleets of 125 mph ‘Pendolino’ and ‘Super Voyager’ tilting trains. This will include developing reliability improvements and reviewing Engineering Changes to the electrical and mechanical systems and maintenance procedures. The ideal Systems Engineer candidate will have extensive experience of working in a technical capacity on traction and rolling stock projects, at least an HNC in systems, mechanical, electrical or electronic engineering and be a Chartered Engineer (CEng) or working towards CEng status. Commercially aware, you will also need to be familiar with the Standards and Legislation applicable to our rolling stock and railway operations. With the ability to communicate at all levels you will have excellent communication and relationship building skills. We’re looking for someone with exceptional problem solving and decision making skills who will develop into a strong leader. A flexible approach is essential in terms of hours and work location. You will be required to support the FMG On-Call roster. To apply, please visit our website:

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吀㨀  ㄀㐀㈀㌀ 㠀㔀㈀㌀ 㠀 䔀㨀 爀攀挀爀甀椀琀洀攀渀琀䀀瘀瀀瀀氀挀⸀挀漀洀

Global Scale. Local Focus. – Rail and Infrastructure Vacancies Currently Available – Civil, Structural and Bridge URGENT Engineers – Rail and Highways

Senior Quantity Surveyors URGENT / Commercial Managers

Bristol, Birmingham, Leeds, Reading and London £30K - £60K or £250 - £450/day

London, Swindon, Midlands and Peterborough £40K - £65K or £300 - £450/day

Rail Project / Construction Manager

Signal Engineers and Managers

Civils and M&E London, Derby, York and Milton Keynes £40K - £60K or £300 - £450/day

London, Swindon, Birmingham, York and Glasgow £40K - £70K or £350 - £500/day

HSE Specialists

Rail Engineers – OLE, E&P and P-Way

London, Birmingham, York, Swindon and Milton Keynes £300 - £450/day

Thousands and thousands of RAIL OPPORTUNITIES


London, York, Reading and Milton Keynes £40K - £55K or £300 - £450/day

P6 Project Planners

Risk and Value Specialists

London, Midlands, Reading and Manchester £40K - £65K or £350 - £500/day

London, Birmingham, York and Glasgow £35K - £60K or £350 - £500/day

TRS Staffing Solutions are international engineering recruitment specialists. We recruit for major national and international projects for leading national rail organisations, main contractors and consultancies.

Please email your CV to or if you’d prefer to discuss any roles call +44 (0)20 7419 5800

Influencing your energy strategies with integrated solutions UK Power Networks Services is a leading provider of electrical infrastructure with significant experience of working on high profile transport projects such as High Speed 1, High Speed 2 and Crossrail. UK Power Networks Services: • Consistently delivers results on the most challenging projects • Can undertake the total requirements of any strategic infrastructure project • Has access to a wealth of international experience in providing finance solutions

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Operation & Maintenance



Rail Engineer - Issue 131 - September 2015  

Rail Engineer - Issue 131 - September 2015

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