INTRO: As the first section of the new Madrid - Barcelona line near completion, Indra is commissioning at Zaragoza an integrated train and infrastructure management system derived from air traffic control. As well as regulating train operations, Da Vinci provides real time data on power supplies and the physical condition of critical components to everyone who needs it

BYLINE: Robert Grant

Managing Director

AEA Technology Global SA

A STEP CHANGE in the way railway operations are controlled and managed is being introduced on the Madrid - Barcelona high speed line by GIF, the organisation set up by the government to build and operate Spain’s expanding network of new lines designed to operate at up to 350 km/h.

Traditionally, the train control function carried out by signallers and dispatchers has been quite separate from other aspects of managing day-to-day railway operations, such as the condition and maintenance of track and rolling stock or the supply of electricity for traction. GIF decided that for both economic and safety reasons, all this information must be brought together and made available on a common data platform to everyone responsible for managing the entire operation.

The Da Vinci integrated management and control system currently being commissioned at Zaragoza was developed by Indra to meet GIF’s specification for 350 km/h high speed lines. Indra is a leading supplier of air traffic control equipment, and was able to draw upon its wide experience in this field.

Da Vinci is also the first control system designed explicitly to manage a working railway using ERTMS Level 2 to control the trains. It also faces up to the challenges posed by the still novel - but increasingly common - situation in which the management of infrastructure and train operations is in the hands of different companies. This leads to complexities at the interfaces between the companies that have important financial and safety implications.

AEA Technology Rail, as a sub-contractor to Indra, has been closely involved with both GIF and Indra from the time when the new system was being specified. This close liaison has continued right through to the installation of some of AEA Technology Rail’s own asset management equipment on this line.

This article, which has been written with assistance from Indra, describes the rationale behind GIF’s choice and looks at the architecture of the Da Vinci system.

Case for integration

Train control and railway management systems have grown up over the years in separate compartments. Signallers and dispatchers responsible for train movements have been in one compartment, while those responsible for monitoring and managing track and traction are located elsewhere, typically with their own mutually incompatible IT systems.

Over the last decade, these two areas have converged physically with the evolution of control centres incorporating a wide range of management and train control tools working alongside each other. However, up to now they have all used different man-machine interfaces, programs, databases and software platforms. Three factors have driven this change: