Infrabel invests in three new rail security devices
Six years after a terrible train accident in Morlanwelz (Hainaut) that claimed the lives of two track workers and injured five others, Belgian rail infrastructure manager Infrabel presented two safety systems that are new in Europe, and signed an order for a third with Alstom.
At the time of the accident, a single portable device was used to make track work safer: the ATW-Tx. Connected to the digital traffic management system in the signal box, it warned technicians of the arrival of a train. However, it its field of action was limited to the “grilles”, the set of points often located at the entrance and exit of a station, Infrabel states in a press release. Two new safety systems should change this.
“These innovations were tailor-made for and with Infrabel. The starting point is that these systems must, at all times, ensure the safety of staff on the tracks, but also be quick and easy to use,” adds an Infrabel spokesperson. The two technologies unveiled on 27 November 2023 in Brussels are “Infralert” and Mobile Balise Stop (MBS).
Infrabel unveiled Infralert in collaboration with Antwerp-based safety technology specialists Rombit. Infrabel’s ambition is to deploy Infralert in April 2024. Designed for continuous track sections between stations, Infralert utilises a custom sensor system that detects approaching trains or unhooked wagons. It sends real-time alerts via intense vibrations and visual cues to wristbands worn by on-site employees, ensuring individualised warnings for each train while operating independently of existing railway signalling.
The technology, created by Rombit, involves strategically placing sensors on rails with magnets, at least 600 metres away from the worksite. These sensors react to vibrations from unhooked trains, promptly transmitting signals to employees through wristbands. Infralert’s standout feature is its autonomy, functioning independently of traditional railway signalling infrastructure.
MBS (Mobile Balise Stop)
In a collaboration involving Alstom, ZÖLLNER Signal, and Infrabel, a railway safety system known as the Mobile Beacon System (MBS) was also presented. The first wave of MBS devices is slated for delivery to the field from April 2024. The technology is also scheduled to be universally applicable to all types of trains by late 2025.
The MBS functions as a mobile device embedded in the tracks, serving as a protective shield for worksite areas. Its unique feature lies in triggering emergency braking when a train passes overhead, a development poised to elevate safety standards in railway operations. The MBS beacons also have remote controllability via radio links, for activation and deactivation. The placement of these beacons at a distance from the work area is tailored to the braking distance of trains.
A framework agreement was also signed between Alstom and Infrabel for the delivery and maintenance of “Eurobalises.” With integrated coding capabilities, Eurobalise is a safety device responsible for transmitting essential data from track to train, which features simplified ERTMS coding for various usage scenarios. The deal encompasses an order for 50 of these beacons and a comprehensive maintenance plan for the next two decades, with potential expansion of up to 100 units. The balises are built on Alstom’s established Onvia BaliseTM technology.
The solution incorporates an automatic warning system designed to safeguard track workers effectively. By automatically transmitting “STOP” or “GO” messages to trains, the Eurobalise enhances safety in work zones. In practical terms, when deployed in a train control system installation at level 1 with limited supervision (ETCS L1LS), the Eurobalise autonomously selects the appropriate message from a pool of 16 possibilities. It then transmits this message to the train at SIL4, representing the highest safety integrity level. The streamlined integration of Eurobalise and encoder functions into a single product ensures easy installation. The Eurobalise also addresses safety requirements during track maintenance, as the remote control of train movements minimises the risk of accidents.