Pilot with remotely controlled red signal: train drivers react positively
Since last year, ProRail, the Dutch Human Environment and Transport Inspectorate (ILT), Strukton Rail and DB Cargo, in conjunction with Dual Inventive, have been carrying out a pilot with a remotely controlled red signal in the Kijfhoek shunting yard. At the end of February, there was a test day at Kijfhoek to see how train drivers would react to signal 512b. As their reactions were positive, it was decided to move to the next phase of the pilot.
Kijfhoek shunting yard is a Not Centrally Controlled Area (Niet Centraal Bediend Gebied, NCGB). An NCBG is an area where the switches and signals cannot be controlled centrally, or only partly controlled, by the train service leader. Ivo de Graaf, Integral Manager of Kijfhoek: “Usually, areas that are designated as out of service are protected with signal 513 signs. Sometimes, using the signs for this purpose at Kijfhoek is very labour intensive. As a result, it can be tempting to not fully apply the rules.” The signal 513 signs must be placed on the track manually, which can lead to risks.
In the summer of 2018, a number of safety incidents took place at Kijfhoek as safety procedures were not followed correctly. Until now, track engineers have put ‘signal 513’ signs on the track by hand, which the risks this entails. ProRail and Strukton Rail contacted Dual Inventive to find a solution so that engineers no longer need to walk on the tracks for this operation. The parties looked for a signal that would give the same instruction to train drivers as signal 513 (stop in front of the signal). That was signal 512b (red light or red flag), the exact manifestation of which is not described in the signal book.
The chosen solution was the Remote Control Signal 3000 (RCS 3000), which can indicate signal 512b using red LED bulbs. “In consultation with experts from ProRail, Signal 512b has been transformed into a LED bar. A red stripe is a standard signal, so has the same characteristics as signal 512b. It’s important that it is a known signal so that drivers recognise it”, explains Lex van der Poel, Director of Dual Inventive. “We developed this concept a few years ago for the French railway, and tested it for several months on the track in Dijon, so we already have a proof of concept.”
Dual Inventive is known as the manufacturer of, among other things, the Track Circuit Operating Device ZKL 3000 RC (Self-Zelfsignalerende Kortsluit Lans 3000 Remote Control), which allows rail workers to carry out their work safely. The RCS 3000 has similarities with this solution, but it is applied in a different way, explains Marleen van de Kerkhof from Dual Inventive. “With the RCS 3000, the functionality of the circuit operating device has been removed. Then an LED bar has been added to the system, so signal 512b can be given to the train drivers. The remotely controlled red signal is controlled via the MTinfo 3000 Cloud, using an app. For every track deactivation, this means a time saving of 30 minutes.” MTinfo 3000 is an Internet of Things platform for the rail sector, to which various digital track systems can be connected and then controlled via an app.
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Last year, twenty Remote Control Signal 3000s were installed on the tracks at Kijfhoek. Since then, several system tests have taken place. At a test day in February, the interaction of train drivers from rail freight operator DB Cargo with signal 512b was examined. Van der Poel: “Drivers on the day showed good recognition of the signal. The test day marked the end of the first part of the pilot. As results have been positive, we’ll be entering into the next phase, in which we’ll test the reaction to the signal in various weather conditions, as well as at night.”
According to Dual Inventive, Remote Control Signal 3000 only requires maintenance once every two years. The battery rarely needs to be replaced, if at all, as the system is powered by a solar panel next to the track. The technology company is investigating whether, by using continuous monitoring via the MTinfo 3000-platform, it will be possible to do maintenance just once every four years in the future.
Watch a video of the pilot with a remotely controlled red signal: