Thales launches eighth generation CBTC train control system

A train stopped in one of the stations of London's tube.

Thales presented various new digital applications during a press conference last week. One is a new version of the supplier’s Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) system called SelTracTM G8. This variant has a new digital architecture, whereby the required trackside equipment can be further reduced. In addition, operators have to deal with less hardware and software that will become obsolete over time, because it is possible to implement software upgrades “for life”.

Amaury Jourdan, Chief Technical Officer at Thales gave an explanation during a press conference, during which the supplier launched various new, digital applications. According to him, it is “frustrating” that major events such as InnoTrans and the public transport trade show organised by UITP cannot take place, making it difficult to present new applications to a wider audience. He points out that this is desperately needed, because once the corona crisis is over, there will be an “increasing demand for smart and green mobility”.

Digital applications

Although rail transport only accounts for a fraction of CO2 emissions, there is still room for improvement, says Jourdan. According to him, five major pain points for carriers are costs, performance, passenger experience, safety and sustainability. The company expects to use digital technologies to reduce the costs of operations and maintenance by 30 percent and to further improve the service and experience of the passengers. Also, CO2 emissions are to be reduced  by 15 percent and cyber security threats need to be tackled.

According to Thales, this can be done with the help of smart data, smart devices, 5G and Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, the Cloud and cyber security applications. “5G and the Internet of Railway Things can be used to control and operate systems. It can also be used for smart maintenance”, explains Jourdan. He warns that with more and more use of mobile phones and tablets, it is important to think “about how to manage critical systems”. According to him, it should not be the case that you run unnecessary risks by using these types of devices.

The company uses cloud applications to manage the digital systems, so that everyone involved can work with them. The company also uses Artificial Intelligence to help transporters with decision support. “This ensures that incidents can be better managed instead of people working on simple operational actions in a system.”

Improve performance

With cloud applications, the Internet of Things and 5G, the performance of train control systems is increasing, according to Jourdan. According to him, this also applies to the CBTC system SelTracTM. The first version of the system went into service as early as 1985 on the Expo line in Vancouver, Canada. It was the world’s first fully self-driving metro line. Since then, Thales has been involved in various network expansions, application of smart maintenance, improvement of passenger social safety and optimisation of the metro operation.

With the eighth generation of the system, SelTrac TM G8, operators can better anticipate future passenger growth, network expansions and fleet expansions, according to Thales. With improved services, carriers can better manage the systems, monitor activities and switch faster in the event of metro traffic disruptions. The supplier also reports that the health monitoring of the system means that smaller maintenance teams are needed that can respond “faster and more resiliently” to outages.

SelTrac TM G8, like previous versions of the system, is designed for autonomous driving, both for green field (new lines) and brown field (existing lines) CBTC implementation. “In addition, vehicles can be converted quickly and minimal equipment along the track is required”, says the supplier.

Thales gives various presentations during RailTech Europe. Klaus Mindel, for example, will give a presentation on March 31 about how ERTMS and digitalisation contribute to a more sustainable and circular rail sector. Visit the website to view the programme and register (limited free tickets are available).

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Author: Marieke van Gompel

Marieke van Gompel is editor-in-chief of, and, online magazines for railway professionals.

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