• Market: Railway Signaling
  • Location: Italy
  • Customer: Local Italian Railway Company

Centralised traffic control (CTC) is a form of railway signalling that consolidates train routing decisions that were previously carried out by local signal operators or the train crews themselves. The system consists of a centralized train dispatcher’s office that controls railroad interlockings and traffic flows in portions of the rail system designated as CTC territory.

CTC has a control panel with a graphical depiction of the railroad on which the dispatcher can keep track of trains’ locations across the territory that the dispatcher controls. Larger railroads may have multiple dispatchers’ offices and even multiple dispatchers for each operating division. These offices are usually located near the busiest yards or stations, and their operational qualities can be compared to air traffic towers.

Traffic control as it applies to railroads ensures that trains moving in opposite directions on the same track cannot pass each other without special infrastructure such as sidings and switches that allow one of the trains to move out of the way. Initially the only two ways for trains to arrange such interactions was to somehow arrange it in advance or provide a communications link between the authority for train movements (the dispatcher) and the trains themselves.

These two mechanisms for control would be formalized by railroad companies in a set of procedures called train order operation, which was later partly automated through use of Automatic Block Signals (ABS).

The project has been realized by a leading Italian company in Civil Engineering and Network Engineering sectors, and at the cutting-edge in the innovative service development and solutions in the Telecommunications, Transport, Energy and Technological markets.
This company has 4000 worldwide employees and an international presence; it has implemented projects almost in all the continents, from Europe to Latin America, from the Middle East to Africa, and in order to meet the need for international presence in a globalized market today operate also in Libya, Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

When assessing the various companies for this project our customer had several requirements that needed to be met. For their trackside control they required that the modules were flexible enough to adapt to the different needs and requirements of the various sites; fail-safe modules were essential to ensure that their wouldn’t be the possibility of a failure anywhere on the network; state-of-the-art devices were required so that they could be programmed quickly using the most up to date languages.

Advantech’s solution was to fully integrate their products with the customer’s existing black box, called ACEI. ACEI (Central Electrically Controlled Shunting) is a system of centralized control of switches, signals, level crossings, manoeuvring signals and everything required for the operation of the railway station and signals are sent from the monitoring equipment to the ACEI and through the APAX modules back to the control room where the data is displayed.

The client installed multiple APAX and EKI modules in a cabinet next to the ACEI equipment, at the periphery of each station and in each cabinet are two individual sets of APAX controllers in a redundant master/slave configuration. Data is acquired by the master controller, while slave system remains in stand-by mode so that in the event of failure the slave system seamlessly takes over operation thereby ensuring continuous system availability.

Advantech’s APAX modules have made the commissioning of the peripheral post more simple and reliable. This provides the operator with a simple way to locally connect – via a notebook with the railway station software – having the ability to view the data exchange and the status of the station. Tests are performed locally and the operator can directly check the correct behavior of the field feedback. As a result, the logic is somewhat simplified.

The modules are hot-swappable and in the case of maintenance of a single module, the system continues to operate thereby improving the MTTR value. APAX’s modularity allowed the customer to realize different devices for different plants even in the same plant.

This also allows the system to be expandable and provides the possibility to add other I/O modules to make measurements in the field for example, the output current provided by an engine (diagnostic data). As a result, software reusability permits the reduction of the costs of new software development with a user friendly programming environment and plug & play functionality.

The APAX system is based on PC logic, allowing for the automatic transmission of the configuration of the single system to the control room.

With their reputation for high quality and availability, Advantech devices have been used in the Italian railway signaling market for many years, thereby helping their trains run on time. Advantech’s product portfolio allowed our customer to use the most convenient architecture depending on the application and a local presence allowed the client to work with local engineers to define the most effective configuration and maintain a fluid relationship at all stages of the process.