NGTC Mid-Term Conference – On-going work on Converging the Urban and Mainline Rail Signalling Systems

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  • EU Policy

The NGTC EU-funded research project has successfully held its mid-term conference on the 29th of October in Munich. It was the opportunity for the project partners and the external experts of the NGTC consortium to present their work to an audience of experts from Europe and beyond.

After an introduction of the project made by the project coordinator, the follow up discussion was led by the urban and mainline rail experts. NGTC consortium has finished designing the Functional Requirement Specifications for the New Generation Train Control (NGTC), specifying those functions that are common for both domains and those required only for each specific railway domain. This is based on a comparison made between the existing functional requirements of the ERTMS Baseline 3 specifications and the urban domain CBTC specifications (IEC, IEEE & MODURBAN). Work is now ongoing for developing the NGTC system architecture, functional allocation, interfaces and the related common message structures, while taking into account the specific needs of each supported railway application, including the differences in performance needs between the urban and mainline rail systems. These results will be made available for the major European rail-related innovation initiative, including the Shift2Rail Joint Undertaking (S2R JU).

Major technical progress has also been registered in defining common Moving Block concepts and principles. Project partners have agreed on the main principles of this system, and are currently working in order to validate them through a set of defined operational scenarios. 

Another area with successful results is the IP-based radio communication. Project partners representing both mainline and urban domains together with the external project experts have agreed upon the general requirements specifications for the radio communication systems, while at the same time making significant progress on the analyses of the technologies selected to face these requirements (LTE, WLAN, SATCOM) and the recommendations to external stakeholders. The main next steps foresee progress on finalizing the research on technological capabilities and a number of system studies (including security).

Good progress has also been made in the field of satellite positioning functionality on ERTMS/ETCS (the virtual balise functionality). In this context a lot of importance was dedicated to analysing the required safety requirements. The future main targets concern the definition of a standard process for GNSS signal coverage and accuracy measurement as well as the definition and quantification of GNSS parameters within the railway environment. The work and the links with other relevant European projects have been achieved with the active support of the European GNSS Agency (GSA), as testified by organization’s representative in the meeting.

All progress achieved on the Moving Block principles, the IP-based radio communication and the satellite positioning functionalities will provide a solid knowledge basis for existing and future R&D&I activities at the European level, especially Shift2Rail.

The different Q&A sessions following the presentations revealed the interest sparked around this project from stakeholders from Europe and beyond. The most important points touched upon were:

  • There is a strong interest coming from the operators to not compromise the urban (CBTC) performance requirements, since the requirements and level of performance are different. Harmonisation of the 2 systems (CBTC, ETCS) should not be done at the expense of some key requirements valid mainly for urban applications;
  • Achieving a common, open standardised architecture would enable to decrease the life cycle costs of future systems, while the certain level of flexibility to include the specific operator’s needs shall be maintained;
  • As the project is not an island, NGTC developments need to consider (and partly synchronize)  the activities within the IEC WG40 dealing with CBTC;
  • Research and further developments in NGTC and other similar initiatives need to take into account that the investments and modernization in urban rail – both within and outside Europe – are increasingly based on the CBTC higher grades of automations (GoA3 and 4);
  • Concerning the uptake of NGTC results within S2R, the participants stressed the existing links (Moving block, IP communication, satellite applications), yet expressed concerns on the uptake of results regarding the common architecture specified within NGTC. The unified presence of the main industrial companies in this initiative is encouraging, and their cooperation with both mainline and urban rail operators, and other relevant stakeholder, will guarantee that the new products will be competitive and effective for their users, while avoiding the main risks – either overly expensive or inferior to the existing systems (in the case of CBTC).

For more information about the project visit the NGTC website or contact Laurent Dauby and Mihai Barcanescu

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