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.
The main requirements were:
The objectives of the successful trail were:
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.