Railways Can Meet Regulatory Needs and Boost Services with IP/MPLS

Next Generation Communications Blog

Railways Can Meet Regulatory Needs and Boost Services with IP/MPLS

By: Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor

While signaling and train control technologies have long existed to automatically trigger emergency brakes, railways are struggling to put them into place.

In North America, the Positive Train Control (PTC) system was mandated by the United States federal government in 2008 for railway lines carrying passengers and hazardous materials. Yet, the government deadline to have 96,500 km of track with the feature by 2015 will not be met.

Similarly, the European Train Control System (ETCS) in Europe, part of the Europe Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), is currently only deployed on 5000 km of track. The EU is aiming for a rollout on Europe’s 68,000km core network by 2030, and there is a long way still to go.

“With the US government set to introduce a five-year extension of the PTC bill by the end of 2015, and the EU turning the screw on ETCS deployment, this is not going away,” noted a recent blog post, Unlocking the benefits of train control with IP/MPLS, by Thierry Sens, Marketing Director Transportation Segment, Alcatel-Lucent. Sens, explained that, “Railways should therefore embrace the respective mandates as an opportunity to improve their network architecture and technology, specifically by introducing IP/MPLS.”

Signaling and train control systems require strict reliability, resiliency, performance and security, as they are mission-critical communications. IP/MPLS architecture is perfectly suited for the task.

By combining IP/MPLS routers, IP/MPLS switches, optical switches, packet microwave and LTE radio networks, railway operators also can build a converged IP/MPLS network to host both mission-critical signaling systems and additional features desired by operators such as CCTV networks and passenger Wi-Fi. While the cost of rolling out the required infrastructure to support these train control mandates is large, railway operators can at least use the opportunity to overhaul their communication systems with modern technology.

Refer in Portugal and Trafikverket (previously Banverket) in Sweden, for instance, are deploying IP/MPLS to support their signaling applications while introducing features such as synchronous Ethernet, cyber-attack protection, non-stop routing, non-stop services and fast reroute.

“These railways are well placed to reap the rewards of improved interoperability, capacity, reliability and safety by hosting enhanced train control on IP/MPLS,” observed Sens.  And, Alcatel-Lucent is working with these railway operators on the design and rollout of the systems based on IP/MPLS.

Meeting the regulatory demand for automatic safety features on railways is not quick or easy. But the benefits can be great for railways that do, and next generation communications is the foundation for enabling them to meet future requirements as well as improve operational excellence and the customer experience.

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