RailTech Europe live blog day 2: ERTMS, ATO and sustainability

From the three stages of RailTech Europe Live, many topics relating to digitalisation such as ERTMS, Automatic Train Operation, and  communication systems were discussed on day two. As icing on the cake, the winners of the Innovation Awards 2021 were announced.

Watch a video recap of Day 2 Digital Rail here:

16.30 Innovation Award Ceremony

In the category Infrastructure Infrabel, Rolling Stock: 3M Poland, Digitalisation: Network Rail, Public Transport: DB Vertrieb, Start-Up: Civil Water Management Limited. The Audience Choice Award wen to TrioLight.

“It was a hard job to choose the winners, with so many nominees”, says Erwin Abbink, Head of Innovation & Analytics at NS (Dutch Railways), one of the jury members. However, after a meeting of the jury, they decided on 5 of the winners of the Innovation Awards.

Rob Goverde, Professor of Railway Traffic Management & Operations, was also present in the studio: “One of the nominees did push us over the edge with a very exciting pitch”. Next to the jury, the audience also had a choice in which company they think deserves an award for their innovation. Read more about the innovations of the winners in this article.

16:00 Tech Stage: NS and Castlab

Dutch Railways (NS) together with Castlab is digitising its inventory, allowing for the production of metal parts on demand. Koen Melis from Castlab and Joris van de Sande from NS brought some of the molds to the studio made from a digitised object. By digitising obsolete parts, a mold can be printed and metal items can be reproduced more quickly. The needed objects can be ordered in only the quantity needed, and can be produced within 10 days when the item is digitised.

Koen Melis says that another possibility is to build in sensors in the objects. Castlab is looking at this together with partner Dual Inventive, which has many possibilities for predictive maintenance.

15:40 ProRail stage: The emission-free construction site

The construction sites of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management together account for an annual emission of 0.7 megaton CO2. That has to change and the goal is to work fully climate-neutral and circular by 2030. To get there, so-called transition paths have been mapped out for and by stakeholders.

Paul Norbart of ProRail and Simone Houtman of Rijkswaterstaat went deeper into the transition path “construction site and construction logistics”. Within this, the focus is on the use of emission-free equipment, for example. Think of fully electric excavators or hydrogen trucks. This not only reduces CO2 emissions, but also nitrogen oxides and particulate matter emissions.

One of the means to achieve the set for 2030 is PIANOo, the Procurement Expertise Center of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate (EZK).

This so-called buyer group is a voluntary partnership of public clients that was set up at the end of last year. The group has a shared market vision and strategy and wants to provide the market with an unambiguous picture of the questionnaire method. For example, it must be clear to everyone where they want to go with regard to the emission-free construction site, says Houtman.

ProRail and Rijkswaterstaat are among the big fish within the buyer group, which also includes other parties such as the Municipality of Amsterdam and the Province of Noord-Holland. The initiative is supported by the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management and the Minister of the Interior and will run until 2022.

15:20 ProRail ASAP ERTMS

ProRail will start an innovation partnership with twelve companies to accellerate the implementation of ERTMS. That has been announced by ERTMS director Wim Knopperts. The selected companies are Rail Connected, Heijmans Infra, Allinq Group, BAM Infra Rail, VRS Railway Industry, Tizzin, Movares, GeoNext, VolkerRail, Strukton Rail, Pilz en Delta Pi.

15:05 Future Rail Mobile Communication System

With a Poll about alternatives to 5G, day chairman Rogier Elshout kicks off the second block of this session on the Main Stage. The chat creates a lively discussion about whether or not satellite communication is a good idea to replace GSM-R. A majority of voters do not think it is a good idea to deviate from 5G. Other participants propose to combine 5G and a satellite connection. if only as a backup for 5G.

Jean-Michel Evanghelou, responsible at UIC for a standard FRMCS solution for the whole of Europe, indicates that 5G is the chosen direction for the new communication system, but that gradually it will be easy to switch to future variants such as 6G+. “In any case, we must have a replacement for GSM-R before 2025 before it goes off the air.”

14:45 Data-driven approach at ProRail

Jeroen Silfhout, together with Sara Larsson, Thomas Yperlaan & Rob Udink from CGI talks about the DDIO application, which is used by ProRail. It’s a safety system to see when tracks are safe to perform track works on. It also includes instructions for train control leader, and the work place safety instructor makes sure the right tracks is marked as occupied, so that its sure no train will enter. There is also a schematic representation that can be generated on- site.

Sara larsson from CGI: With the data we can simulate part of the track of the Netherlands in 3D. This simulation can be used for experiments or research. For example, an experiment the with Timtim app was done, which gives train drivers more information. It was used by train drivers in the simulation to see what the impact is.

Next, Maarten Zanen and Maarten de Vries from Ricardo Rail talk about Digital Asset Monitoring.

14:15 Tech Stage, Virtual Coupling

Joelle Aoun, PhD researcher at the Department of Transport and Planning at Delft University of Technology talked about the Potential and challenges of Virtual Coupling for improved railway capacity.

Virtual Coupling takes moving-block operations further by separating trains by a relative braking distance. By exchanging information about positions and acceleration between trains, virtually coupled trains can be treated as a single convoy. Among the conclusions of her research, for which stakeholders from the European railway sector was involved, are that Virtual Coupling can be a solution, especially in dense areas of massive demand. However, safety issues have to be resolved, and it is seen as the most important aspect by stakeholders. Joelle Aoun: “It will also need cooperation on shared routes of different operators.”

Want to join the event? Register for free at railtechlive.com

Also, station platforms might need to be extended to queue behind each other. The MovingRail project is funded by Shift2Rail, and coordinated by Rob Goverde from the TU Delft.

14:30, Sustainable working as a starting point for business operations

The so-called environmental cost indicator (MKI) is slowly but surely becoming the starting point for operational management in the rail sector. ProRai sees that the MKI is increasingly the norm, says Jeroen ter Meer, Programme Manager Sustainability at ProRail.

Where that is not yet the case, the rail operator notices that the market responds well to incentives. When ProRail started to apply the MKI structurally in 2018, the market turned out to be ready for it.

Last December, the MKI criterion was strengthened. Among other things, the award advantage for well-performing subcontractors was increased from 10 to 25 percent.

14:10 Digital Communication

In Germany, Deutsche Bahn is working on a major project to digitize the infrastructure. Philip Bürsch is responsible for the Digital Schiene Deutschland project. He updated the conference participants on the Main Stage about the current state of affairs with ERTMS, ATO and FRMCS in Germany.

14:00 ProRail stage: Energy and Stations

The energy consumption of the approximately 400 stations of ProRail is about 50 million kWh per year, almost twice as much as all households put together.

This means that the stations consume a third of all the energy that ProRail needs on an annual basis, says Andreas Toufexes, Stations, Development & Policy Advisor at ProRail. Major consumers at the station include the escalators and the various installations on the platforms, such as lighting, signage and clocks.

In a trial at Zwolle Station, ProRail was able to reduce consumption by a quarter by examining the functioning of the escalators. This reduced the total energy consumption of the station by 8 percent.

The final tip from Toufexes to speed up ProRail’s energy transition also concerns the escalator. Take the stairs more often and only use the escalator to go down. Then it works like a bicycle dynamo. The escalator up, on the other hand, consumes energy.

13:00 Tech Stage

At the Tech Stage, Claudio Bassini of Nokia talked about Train to Ground communications networks, he is vertical solution expert transportation at Nokia)

Ingo Rath, Head of Application Projects Product Business at Thales talked about Trackside ETCS. One of the key features is a robust wheel detection system by electromagnetic signals to detect when track sections are free. A wheel sensor consists of two transmitters and two receivers, which enable detection of direction of travel.

11:40 Main Stage

Pavel Popov of Russian Railways gave an update on the steps that have been made with Automatic Train Operation. The railway company has announced earlier to start using the first autonomous passenger trains (GoA3) in the regular timetable in September this year.

In the Moscow region, state-owned company RZD is currently testing two different passenger trains, and a third for GoA4 is under design. The first two are suitable for Grade of Automation 3 (GoA3). They are running tests with obstacle detection systems. “It is important to test these systems in the track but also with a simulator so you can test every different situation that can occur.”

Popov also mentioned that the company started testing a passenger embarking and disembarking control. “We have some interesting results. You can see on the camera that it is possible to detect different dangerous situation.”

11.20 Simulation for the development of ERTMS innovations

Emdzad Sehic and Jelle van Luipen from ProRail demonstrate in a workshop on the ProRail Stage how the largely in-house ERTMS simulator works. The railway manager also gave his vision from his own headquarters in Utrecht about matching simulation tools with other applications.

Want to join the event? Register for free at railtechlive.com

11.15 ATO on ETCS in the Swiss mixed rail network

DB Cargo conducted a field test with ATO over ETCS in the Swiss main rail network. This test was done with the Automated Rail Cargo Consortium (ARCC) in collaboration with the X2Rail-3 consortium led by Thales. Baseliyos Jacob from DB Cargo shares his experiences with these tests in an interview.

For this, a Bombardier Traxx AC1 locomotive was used in combination with fourteen Eanos wagons loaded with gravel. The combination weighed 1,274 tons and was 240 meters long. One of the participants asks about the biggest challenges for this test. “We had a six-month delay due to the Covid restrictions. In addition, testing between the normal timetable with such a large freight train presented the necessary operational challenges. ”

Furthermore, it snowed and rained heavily during the tests and it was freezing twenty degrees at night. “We originally planned this test six months earlier in a season with many hours of sunshine and more stable weather,” said Jacob. “But it allowed us to test the systems under all circumstances, which is also positive.”

10:45 Are self-driving trains safer without a driver on board?

During his presentation at the Tech Stage, Michiel Veltman, senior consultant at Royal Haskoning DHV asks the public whether self-driving trains without a driver on board are safer than a human-controlled train. A majority think so. Veltman outlined all aspects that a human manager must have knowledge of in order to respond to unexpected circumstances.

“If that expertise can be fully taken over by machines, it is indeed safer, but it will first have to be extensively tested. After all, ATO is beautiful, but it should never be at the expense of safety on the track.”

10:00 Tech Stage TNO and ProRail

Jaco van Meijeren of TNO outlines the expected benefits of Automatic Train Operation. More trains on the same infrastructure, more reliable, more punctual, less energy consumption and maintenance and safer. “These are all seen as potential benefits because they have not yet been proven in practice.”

Furthermore, the standardization of systems takes a lot of time, equipment must be built in, and there must be a clear business and use case. “Does the system do what we expect of it? the acceptance by employees and travelers and of course the legal aspects.”

One of the participants asks whether we should wait for ERTMS for the rollout of ATO or whether it is also possible with the current ATB. “ATO about ATB is not easy,” says Patrick Combrink of ProRail. “Especially since ATB is not a digital safety system, so that would have to be added separately. But NS is testing with ATO and ATB ”

Lammert Visser, Project Manager of the ATO team at NS, will give a presentation on the Main Stage about this test at 11.55 am. NS, together with the Spanish train builder CAF, built an experimental ATO solution based on ETCS

10:00 Main Stage

Moderator Rogier Elshout opens the conference and starts with a conversation with Simon Fletcher, directeur Europe at international rail organisation UIC. Fletcher points out that one of the advantages of ERTMS is, that there will be “one single system” that “will help multiple efficiency a couple of times”. “This European system will increase interoperability and helps trains to operate seamlessly between member states.”

Elshout points out that ERTMS was supposed to solve the problem of 27 different systems, and at the same time member states still have their old systems. Fletcher says that the installation of ERTMS “will not go overnight”. “You can not disconnect and connect it as a set of lego. You also have a legacy system that sometimes has not reached the end of life. So you have to take it step by step.”


Without ERTMS, the European rail sector cannot take further steps in digitalisation, ERTMS coordinator Matthias Ruete of the European Commission warned. “ERTMS is the backbone of the digitalisation of rail. If we use it properly, we can take steps with digital interlocking, Digital Coupling and satellite connections. ”

Wim Knopperts, ERTMS director of the Dutch programme agrees with Ruete. “We have to speed up. I think this is also possible in the Netherlands. We have started a tender for this.” According to him, it is also necessary to speed up the roll-out, because sustainability goals must be achieved that have been agreed in the European Green Deal. “We have to make the ‘shift to rail’. The role of the railways in making transport more sustainable is very important.”

9:00 Start Day 2 Digital Rail

Author: Esther Geerts

Editor RailTech.com

Add your comment

characters remaining.

Log in through one of the following social media partners to comment.