LNER Azuma at York (Photo: Tony Miles)

UK: Network Rail has appointed Thales to develop and implement an Online Key Management System to secure the exchange of critical data between trackside and in-cab ETCS equipment.

‘The online element of this solution is truly innovative, having not yet been implemented elsewhere in the world, meaning Network Rail will be leading the market’, said Andy Bell, Vice-President for Thales Ground Transportation Systems in the UK, on July 20.

The OKMS will generate, store, manage, distribute, archive and delete the software cryptographic keys which every ETCS Radio Block Centre and onboard unit requires for secure communication over GSM-R. It will centralise key administration for all ETCS users on the UK network, using both online and offline key distribution methods.

The OKMS will build on proven off-line key management technology developed by Thales in the UK and Germany and deployed in Poland and Israel, but will incorporate online connectivity to add a greater level of automation when compared to current networks which rely on a human interface.

Development will be undertaken at Thales sites in Germany and Manchester, and trials are planned for late 2022, before it goes live on the East Coast Main Line in 2023 with national roll-out to follow.