24,500 trains run on the nation’s railways each and every day, and in order for the system to run as smoothly and as safely as possible, a seamless communications and IT network infrastructure is vital.
However, with a growing number of disparate technologies such as customer information screens, CCTV, access control, ticket machines and signalling all operating over it, this important equipment needs to be protected by state-of-the-art passive and active electronic cabinets.
Network Rail recognises the role IT is playing in its objective to transform the nation’s Victorian-era infrastructure into one that will be able to support an estimated 400 million extra passenger journeys by 2020. Central to this objective is Offering Rail Better Information Services (ORBIS), a five-year £325m project to improve Network Rail’s approaches to the acquisition, storage and usage of asset information. Network Rail hopes this strategy will transform a ‘fix and fail’ model into one based on ‘predict and prevent’.
Work has already begun on a new traffic management strategy, which involves implementing the technology to support the phase-out of signal boxes and create 14 regional rail operating centres (ROC) across the country. 800 nationwide signal boxes will eventually disappear and the new automated system will allow large areas of the networkto be controlled from fewer locations – cutting costs by £250m per year, while improving efficiency and reducing delays.
In addition, controllers and monitors are currently being placed on the tracks to feed information to a system that allows maintenance workers to fix an issue before it causes a train delay. It is already estimated to have reduced delays for the travelling public and freight operators by hundreds of thousands of minutes.
Keeping passengers safe and up-to-date with information on a real time basis is also a top priority for rail franchise operators.
The use of CCTV within rail stations has grown rapidly over recent years, and this technology is now widely deployed on platforms, concourses and trains. As well as making passengers feel safer, particularly in smaller remote or isolated stations, CCTV has contributed to deterring criminals and providing evidence in the investigation of criminal acts.
Customer information screens are also being upgraded and modern systems provide accurate to-the-minute information about train arrivals, departures and delays.
For those wishing to access travel information and book tickets online, Wi-Fi provision is a must. In February this year, Prime Minister David Cameron, announced that passengers will be able to access free Wi-Fi on trains throughout England and Wales from 2017, thanks to almost £50m of funding from the Department for Transport.
Although anything that improves the passenger experience and overall efficiency of the rail network should be welcomed, this reliance on IT means that downtime must be avoided at all costs. Put simply, with so much technology running over the network infrastructure, any interruption to its performance could throw the whole railway system into chaos.
A key part of maintaining the integrity of a network is the use of high quality active cabinets that protect the sensitive electronic equipment that keeps the information flowing. The attitude that ‘it’s just a cabinet and they’re all the same’ creates issues that could be avoided both initially and in the future. It might come as a surprise to some to find out that leading manufacturers are designing products that not only enhance functionality, but also offer greater flexibility, and have features that can save time and money.
Active cabinets are used in a wide variety of outdoor locations both station-side and platform-side, and are often the first line of defence. They must be as difficult as possible to move or infiltrate, and are therefore usually installed using Network Rail’s standard Location Cases (LOC) bases, or a transformer root mounting system for attachment to either a steel platform or concrete pad.
Exposed to the elements, cabinets are designed to resist the effects of sun, rain, dust and other debris, and must be able to withstand the potential for damage as a result of vandalism.
That’s why leading manufacturers such as Cannon Technologies construct cabinets from 2mm-thick Z600 pre-galvanised steel sheet. Z600 denotes a total of 600gm/m² of zinc applied in an oxygen -ree atmosphere to the steel substrate. The zinc weight equates to a thickness of 42μm per side, from which a life expectancy of 28 years can be expected
without additional treatment.
According to trials conducted by the Galvanisers Association, the average consumption of zinc from externally exposed galvanised products in the UK is 1.5μm per year.
Adding another layer of protection is powder coating, which can meet specific colour requirements, and has the additional advantage with light colours of reflecting solar light and being UV resistant, therefore directing heat away from the active components contained within and minimises solar heat gain. This is vital, as ensuring that the environmental conditions within a cabinet are kept within defined parameters maintains the correct operation of the equipment housed inside.
Thermo Electric Devices are used to provide active cabinets with an IP65 rating, with no ventilation or change of air between outside and internally circulating air.
Thwarting the efforts of those who want to access the equipment inside cabinets requires special measures, and only the use of sophisticated locking and access control technology can adequately protect them. Cabinet locking systems can be approved by one of the loss prevention certification board’s (LPCB) LPS1175 security ratings to provide the necessary delay, and means of detection required to protect against methods of intrusion, including the use of a wide variety of power tools.
Rail franchise operators are also aware that issuing a physical key to every engineer or subcontractor who needs access to a cabinet is both impractical and a security threat in itself, in the event that it is lost or stolen. Therefore, remote keyless locking and unlocking is the answer.
By integrating each cabinet into the network, personnel can call the relevant ROC once on-site to unlock the unit, and then lock it again once work is completed. For those requiring even higher levels of physical security, locking systems can be used in conjunction with a personal identification number (PIN), a radio frequency identification (RFID) device, or even biometric fingerprint identification.
Although securing individual cabinets is crucial, such is the need to keep an IT infrastructure up and running that a back-up data centre facility is increasingly necessary as part of a disaster recovery strategy.
Transportable modular data centre (TMDC) systems offer all the functionality of a conventional data centre, as well as being energy efficient with low power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratings. They come with full size 19-inch or electrical control cabinets, and each unit comes pre-fabricated with power, cabling, hot / cold aisle containment, and cable management.
Other key features include pre-installed servers, switches, uninterruptible power supply (UPS) and fire suppression systems, LED lighting, and power distribution units (PDUs). Maximum layout flexibility facilitates a data centre solution that is easy to configure, fast to install, and minimises disruption, while making sure that downtime is avoided.
As the public’s reliance on the rail infrastructure increases, IT will continue to deliver a leaner, more efficient and reliable system that also provides greater value to its customers. Active cabinets, cabins and modular data centres are at the forefront in providing a temperature controlled and secure environment for the valuable and sensitive active equipment that will allow this to happen, and are the first line of defence in maintaining an always-on communications, control and IT network.