Delivering a complex signalling programme in a short amount of time requires a creative approach. So rather than sticking with tried and tested methods and products, Network Rail with the support of Atkins introduced a brand new product to the UK railway network for the Cardiff Area Signalling Renewal (CASR). Frauscher digital axle counters (FAdC) can be installed in minutes rather than hours, driving significant time and cost savings. In March 2013, FAdC was rolled out on the CASR first phase commissioning with great results. So how did the team gain product acceptance for FAdC?

Under CASR, Atkins is responsible for designing, managing and implementing the replacement of life-expired signalling and associated power and distribution equipment across 192 route miles of track. This is no easy feat and, with only four years to complete the work, the project team knew that it had to do things differently to deliver the project on time. FAdC seemed like the perfect solution as it is similar to the Thales AzLm offering that has been used in the UK for some years now but with some striking differences.

Clamps not holes

What makes FAdC so innovative is that it vastly reduces the amount of time staff need to spend trackside from construction, test and maintenance. The FAdC detection head point is fitted to the rail by a clamp so it can be fitted on-site in a matter of minutes as drilling the rail web is eliminated. No trackside interface module is required, which again reduces the need for staff to work on- site, and it also has diagnostic support systems that are more informative to the maintainer and give quicker and more accurate faulting from the control centre should it be required.

The clamp installation feature also provided the team with a solution for resignalling Cardiff Central station which is due by Christmas 2014. The Cardiff station area has a very dense p-way layout which means that drilling the rail web is not an option. However, as FAdC does not require any drilling to be installed, it was a great way to overcome this challenge. Due to the significant benefits FAdC could provide, Atkins offered it as an efficiency saving under the CASR scheme at time of tender.

Acceptance and design

The first step for Conor Linnell, Atkins’ project director for CASR and the FAdC innovation, was to actively engage with Network Rail and Frauscher to work out a plan of attack for the Cardiff application approval. Having established that a product acceptance extension was required, the whole process consisted of the following elements:

» Cross acceptance from Germany with supporting safety certification from a German Independent Safety Authority;

» Network Rail main product approval process;

» Additional electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) trials in the UK in both AC and DC traction areas.

While the EMC trials were ongoing, Atkins then started designing its first application for FAdC with the help of Frauscher and Network Rail. A number of key staff travelled to Frauscher’s headquarters in Austria for training on all elements of design, construction and testing, including data production.

Atkins’ engineers then set about designing a basic architecture for the deployment of FAdC on the first phase of CASR. They created new wiring and configuration templates and processes for the design. A key element to the overall train detection system was to design a completely novel transmission system to support the Frauscher product.

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This new transmission system was needed as the GRIP 4 scheme (single option development) had been designed around the use of existing digital train detection equipment available in the market. This meant that the telecoms transmissions system and its interface with the signalling system was largely fixed. As there was no off-the- shelf transmission system for deploying FAdC in the UK, and to avoid a large re-design of the telecoms bearers, Atkins with Network Rail undertook a conceptual design for the transmission system.

Routing and transmission

Having considered a number of basic factors such as transmission between islands of FAdC equipment and routing of diagnostic data, Atkins produced a basic architecture for a fully distributed system that tied in where possible with the existing fixed telecoms network nodes for the scheme. It was quickly realised that, with minimal alteration, the architecture could be enhanced to provide greater availability and redundancy via auto re- configuration of the transmission system and its data.

In order to achieve this, Atkins identified suitable products (Westermo digital modems) that were in use in the rail environment for telecoms use and took these through the product acceptance process to support the signalling application. The end result is a transmission system that has a number of significant benefits both operationally and for the maintainer. It not only uses the in-built FAdC diagnostics but also the network managed software solution to monitor and interrogate the transmission system and its constituent parts.

Implementation and benefits

With product acceptance in hand for Cardiff, the team could now concentrate on installing FAdC onto the UK railway network. During the 52 hour commissioning, 75 digital axle counters were brought into service. The FAdC units were purchased with a plug coupled tail cable and the rail clamp unit and head already made up. With no need to drill into the rail web, the units were installed by way of a one nut fixing arrangement and adjustment which saw the head fitting completed in a matter of minutes, not hours. A huge team effort from Atkins, Frauscher and Network Rail resulted in successfully setting up and commissioning what has proved to be a reliable system so far.

Due to the hard work of the Atkins/Network Rail project team, there is now an extra digital axle counter product available for use on the UK railway which is quicker to install and easier to use. This will provide a more competitive market place which in turn will help to drive costs down for rail infrastructure projects.

Commenting on FAdC, Conor Linnell said: “The introduction of new technically advanced products to the UK rail industry is a must if we are to deliver the innovation and savings the Office of Rail Regulation require over the coming years. This has been a huge technical challenge that the CASR project team as a whole has risen to.

The Frauscher train detection system together with Atkins’ novel transmission system and more accessible maintenance data will deliver a new quality train detection system to the industry. Atkins has been supported and assisted in achieving this by all stakeholders and it could not have been done without the positive collaboration of all involved.”

The second phase commissioning for CASR is scheduled for early September and by the time the project is complete, 900 FAdC axle counters will be installed on the network.