Train operators and owners had the chance to experience for themselves the latest on-board train control system by Thales.
The recent unveiling of a high-fidelity cab mock-up was an important milestone for Thales, not only confirming progress in an on-going project to retrofit three first-in-class (FiC) Class 43 power-cars, but also in establishing the company’s reputation as a supplier of train control systems in the UK.
Thales’s solution is set to modernise the on-board systems of the Class 43 power-cars which are owned by Porterbrook; this is an important step in Network Rail’s plans to introduce European Train Control System (ETCS) technology across Britain’s rail network.
The mock-up cab, located at Thales’s Birmingham site, gives drivers from train operating companies (TOCs) hands-on experience of how the system will look and feel. It also provides the opportunity for valuable user feedback to be fed into the Thales project team.
“We’ve received extremely positive feedback from the customers so far,” said Thales’s Senior Project Manager, Lokesh Anand. “Our stakeholders are able to experience the final solution and they are happy that we have taken on board their comments and feedback from the previous stage and that we are actively listening to them.”
“We have a state-of-the-art product, with proven, user-friendly technology and our solution provides the end user with the continuous speed supervision and real-time information about the state of the railway ahead”.
The positive response from end-users enables Thales to take a big step forward towards closing out final design phase and proceed towards commencing the fitting of the system to Porterbrook’s Class 43 power-cars, which are operated by a number of Britain’s TOCs as well as Network Rail. Installation of the systems is due to be completed and ready for integration testing this summer.
ETCS is the signalling and train control component of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), which is being adopted throughout Europe and beyond. Thales’s ETCS compliant system makes use of standard trackside equipment and wireless controlling equipment in the train to receive line-side information, removing the reliance on the driver to watch track-side signals.
The ETCS technology lets TOCs operate more trains on the same line safely. The implementation will aim to increase railways operators’ operational performance through enhanced capacity and speed and improved track utilisation.
Thales in Germany has developed the on-board systems combining established ETCS technology with additional technological features including enhanced automation, cyber-security and engineering assurance. In the UK, Thales is responsible for integrating the equipment into the Class 43 rolling stock with project partners Ricardo Rail, with installation by Thales’s project partners, Yellow Rail, located in Derby.
Thales is a global technology company specialising in designing and installing safety-critical transport systems but this project has faced challenges, not least the remote working restrictions imposed by Covid-19.
“The number of stakeholders and suppliers involved, and the safety critical nature of the work makes this a very complex project,” said Mr Anand. “Covid-19 meant that we had to bring together many dispersed groups in different ways; even visits to the mock-up cab had to be arranged observing strict social distancing rules. We are, however, delighted to have brought everything together and all of this would not have been possible without the dedication and resilience shown by each member of this project team.”
Opening new opportunities for Thales
By confirming customer confidence in its ability to deliver on time and to specification, the success of the demonstration is important for Thales, which is establishing its ETCS technology in the market.
Thales is working towards securing potential customers across parts of the world where ETCS technology is being implemented and the UK is considered a flagship reference market for future customers around the world.
“Establishing supply chains and increasing design maturity for a new safety-critical product solution for the UK is always challenging,” said Mr Anand. “However, we are very confident that the product maturity continues to build, and we’re delighted to have reached this milestone in the project.”
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