Train drivers will be able to receive information from control centres via satellites

World's first satellite-based railway management system

The world’s first railway management system communicating with satellites has been tested in Italy.

The system, a joined project between the European Space Agency, UK satellite operator Inmarsat, Ansaldo STS and Vodafone, is designed to improve data transmission about the location of trains travelling across remote areas.

Currently, railway traffic controllers in Europe receive data about trains through the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS). The system uses electronic beacons, located along the track every 500 to 1,500 metres, transmitting information about the train’s position via a dedicated terrestrial cell network. The centres then transmit route data back to the train drivers, providing recommended speed and other information important for safe operations.

The currently tested satellite-based system, called the Train Integrated Safety Satellite System project, or 3InSat, will not only help improve communication with trains in remote areas but will also help reduce costs, as installing expensive track equipment and building additional communication infrastructure will no longer be needed.

Recently, the system has been put to test on the Italian island of Sardinia with further trials scheduled for this autumn.

“The new telecom service we have been testing in Sardinia as part of 3InSat is unprecedented for train control systems,” said Francesco Rispoli of Ansaldo STS.

“It paves the way for realising cost-efficient and rapidly deployable signalling systems using, for the first time, non-dedicated telecom networks.”

If all goes well, satellite communication links will be integrated into the railway traffic management system in Sardinia with further deployment across Europe expected in the upcoming years. A similar project is underway in Australia.

The 3InSat project is co-funded by Esa’s Integrated Applications Promotion programme.

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