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Network Rail
Network Rail

Distant Signalling

Network Rail wanted to develop a wireless distant signal to be used on secondary train routes. The main advantage of the proposed system was the absence of physical cabling between the Network Rail control room and the distant signal. Cable theft has become a significant problem for Network Rail, causing increased service disruptions and amplified maintenance costs.

Firstco were commissioned to design and implement a prototype system, which was trialled over the course of a year, using a combination of simulated and real interfaces. In order to develop the most appropriate solution, Firstco worked closely with Rockwell Automation and Westermo who provided the automation and wireless communication equipment.

For the purpose of the trial only Firstco developed an interlocking Simulator and a Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) application to enable the simulation of train services and the monitoring of various system parameters. There was a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) and radio equipment with interfaces which simulated the Network Rail interlocking system.

This was a standalone system containing PLC equipment, radio equipment, a power source, a 3-aspect signal and an Automatic Warning System (AWS) electromagnet.

Network Rail

Project Requirements

The main requirements were:

  • Compliance with SIL-3 at a system level (fail safe operation of signal aspects)
  • The remote system must be self-powered
  • Power consumption at the remote system must be minimised
  • There must be no wired connections between the Remote system and the Home system (Network Rail control room/Interlocking)
  • The deployment of the final product must require minimum configuration and installation activities
  • The trial system must require minimum modifications before it is deployed for real life application

The objectives of the successful trail were:

  • Proof of concept for wireless communications between the Home End and the Remote End
  • Proof of concept for fuel cell performance

Network Rail mandated the use of equipment which had not previously been integrated as an overall system.

Firstco developed the protocol interfaces in co-operation with the selected manufacturers to provide a highly resilient end to end solution which was then progressed to the next stage of development.

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