Why digital is riding with the mainline train driver
Picture yourself as the driver in the cabin of a mainline train.
You need to start and stop the train, keep to your timetable, move it at the right speed, make sure that no signals are overlooked, take into account any unusual speed restrictions, and constantly watch the hour and know your location. Additionnaly, you need to continuously observe and report abnormal events and situtations in the train and outside on the tracks.
At the same time, you are responsible for the safety of hundreds of passengers and staff as well as the security of freight aboard. You need to assure punctuality for the operational efficieny of other trains on the same line and to permit your passengers to be on time at their destination, for transfers, for example.
Finally, you want to limit energy and materials use, both for the environment and for efficient resource use for the rail operator.
All in all, these duties represent a huge responsibility, especially when you know that you are in the driver’s seat of a massive chain of metal, a locomotive and cars weighing hundreds of tons, moving at speeds up to 300 kilometres an hour, and whose safe braking distance can require more than 3.5 kilometres.
“It’s a stressful job that digital technologies are transforming,” says Kai Taylor, Thales Marketing & Communications Director, Main Line Rail Signalling, “You need to make many decisions simultaneously and you must calculate some of them from a variety of data from different sources. So, there is a real need to turn the data stream quickly into information that is immediately applicable to the journey at hand.”
"There is a real need to turn the data stream quickly into information that is immediately applicable to the journey at hand.” Kai Taylor, Thales Marketing & Communications Director, Main Line Rail Signalling.
That’s where Driver Advisory Systems (DAS) come in, Kai Taylor says, “With DAS connectivity, information sources leverage AI algorithms, so the system prompts the optimal speed for on-time arrival for the programmed journey. DAS provides a smooth ride, minimising energy consumption, and avoiding unnecessary braking and engine use that cause wear and tear on the equipment. The train driver becomes an even greater expert with less stress, more comfort and so with greater efficiency”.
In the train cabin, the ergonomic DAS screen enables the driver to monitor the timetabled journey to determine the necessary speed for on-time arrival, with possible adjustments as required either to save energy at a lower speed if the train is running early or increasing speed if limits permit should the train risk arriving late. On-time arrival is not only important for travellers and freight; it avoids timetable conflicts with other trains.
An on-board device is loaded with timetable data and compared to the actual train position through GPS signals that are processed very frequently, giving very high positional accuracy.
“DAS is a basic building block for the automated future of mainline trains”, Kai Taylor explains, “It can be connected to Thales’ ARAMIS rail traffic management system that automatically sets routes, supervises the infrastructure, and visualises the status of the railway network in real time. It calculates forecasts based on actual data and optimises resources as it assures a free and efficient flow of railway traffic.”
"(With Driver Advisory Systems (DAS)) The train driver becomes an even greater expert with less stress, more comfort and so with greater efficiency” says Kai Taylor, Thales Marketing & Communications Director, Main Line Rail Signalling.
Thales’ position in the C-DAS (Connected Driver Advisory System) future recently got a big boost when Thales acquired last year Cubris, the market-leader in DAS with over a decade of experience.
Cubris’ GreenSpeed™ C-DAS allows real-time and fully-secured exchange of information between the rail system and the train driver to optimise the driving and reduce CO2 emissions. It has been in operation since 2012 over the entire fleet of the Danish Railways, improving punctuality and reducing traction energy consumption and adopted since then in a number of additional markets.
“The arrival of Cubris at Thales is especially exciting”, Kai Taylor says, “It offers a key technology for the future autonomous trains and is another building block in Thales’ complete offer for the digital transformation of the railways”.
“It offers a key technology for the future autonomous trains and is another building block in Thales’ complete offer for the digital transformation of the railways” Kai Taylor, Thales Marketing & Communications Director, Main Line Rail Signalling.