Smart signalling will double capacity on interstate rail

By: Jason Whittaker

A new advanced signalling system promises to more than double rail freight capacity along existing corridors. The Federal Government’s Australian Rail

A new advanced signalling system promises to more than double rail freight capacity along existing corridors.

The Federal Government’s Australian Rail Track Corporation will spend $90 million on the Advanced Train Management System (ATMC) which it says will improve capacity, safety and efficiency on the interstate rail network.

A trial of the system will soon commence on a piece of track between Adelaide and Port Augusta.

The ATMS will enable the removal of physical ‘on track’ constraints to improve the capacity on the interstate rail network, according to the ARTC.

The present rail network operates using trackside signals for trains, many of which can be 20 to 50 kilometres apart. Only one train can be within a signal area at any one time.

The ATMS system will replace the signals, managing trains using a sophisticated computer program and GPS. The system secures the distance between trains with an added safety margin for braking and protection from trains entering into another train’s space.

The new system is able to verify and cross verify a train’s position, speed and braking distance and being able to check these parameters against any other trains operating on the network.

The system relies on advanced communications equipment which ARTC is rolling out with Telstra from Brisbane to Perth.

ARTC CEO David Marchant says the benefits of the system to the interstate rail network are significant.

"Capacity will be substantially increased by enabling more trains to operate on the existing rail infrastructure. This has the potential to more than double the capacity of the network using existing rail corridors," he says.

"It will significantly improve safety through being able to cross verify and check the position of trains and enable intervention if trains move closer to each other than is provided for.

"This intervention can be in the form of the computer network control centre ‘reaching into the cab’ and actually applying the brakes to the train. These safety enhancements are significant in the event that anything goes wrong with the drivers or the train operations."

The ARTC has today also entered a contract for $74.8 million with Lockheed Martin to design, develop, construct and test an ATMS prototype system on 120km stretch of the interstate rail network between Adelaide and Port Augusta.

Denise Saiki, Vice President and General Manager of Lockheed Martin’s Manassas business says, the system will safely improve the performance and capacity of the ARTC’s rail network.

"We are committed to working with ARTC in providing this innovative train control system," she says.

The ARTC has also entered into contracts with Lloyd’s Register Rail which will undertake the independent verification of the computer programs and algorithms of the systems to verify their accuracy independent of the development.

"ATMS potentially ushers in a new era for freight transport in Australia," says Marchant.

"It will provide the ARTC with enhanced visibility into its rail network operations, reduce its life cycle cost of maintaining trackside signalling systems, and increase the ARTC’s capacity to move freight across its network."

Under the contract, Lockheed Martin will provide all elements of the ATMS, including components installed in ARTC facilities, locomotive onboard processors, displays to provide warning to train operators and authorities, and automated switching devices alongside tracks to safely route trains along dispatched routes.

The ATMS communications capability will be enabled by the ongoing ARTC upgrade carried out by Telstra using its Next G network.

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