UK: Trials are underway with Virtual Lineside Signalling, which is being developed by Park Signalling with the aim of using off-the-shelf technology including commercial mobile phone networks, industrial standard RFID tags and iPads to provide signalling at a fraction of the cost of conventional or Ertms implementations.

Trials on the Foxfield heritage railway and Network Rail’s High Marnham test track have been awarded a £100 000 grant by the UK Department of Transport and Rail Safety & Standards Board. Engineering consultancy Frazer-Nash is providing safety validation, verifying whether the system can offer safety levels at least as good as alternative systems.

Richard Jones, business manager at Frazer-Nash, believes the system could ‘revolutionise low-cost signalling’ on lines with low traffic densities or where there is no money for conventional modern signalling systems. Another possibility is as a temporary back-up when technical failure or cable theft render main systems inoperable.

VLS utilises off-the-shelf hardware together with commercial GSM networks to transmit encrypted messages between the control centre and the trains. All data processing is undertaken in the control centre, with the cab display simply receiving images or stop or proceed indications.

No lineside infrastructure is required, other than RFID tags on the track which are used by the train to verify its position.