WhoshouldIsee Tracks

Climate change emergency, is the rail industry on board?

The UK has committed to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 and rail travel will play a monumental role on that journey to decarbonisation. Decarbonisation has never been higher on the agenda in rail, and although 2050 is a generation away any decisions made today will have a direct impact on the UK’s ability to meet its target in the most cost-effective way.

The abandonment of the UK rail franchising system, technological progress and the declining costs of renewables means that green power can now be coupled with innovation and investment. The franchising system in UK rail could be seen as one of the reasons we haven’t seen implementation of measurable innovation, why? Because train operating companies (TOCs) with short-term contracts were simply never going to have the incentive to invest for the long term.

Bridging the gap

The first phase of HS2 is expected by 2033, electrification is absolutely key to decarbonisation in the UK, but it isn’t the only solution. Waiting for HS2 to be completed leaves the industry with an eighteen year wait for a greener railway; especially in Freight as there are currently no viable alternatives aside from electrification, so what solutions should be implemented in the meantime?

It’s not just about meeting compliance regulations anymore, it’s about major process, product and technology shifts across the industry – not forgetting to keep the future in mind. Sustainable investment in all aspects, social, environmental and governance is the key to filling the gap between HS2 completion and taking action now to reduce emissions in both passenger rail and freight.


Recognising potential

Driver Advisory Systems (DAS) are rapidly being recognised as the route to optimising the performance of trains to reduce energy consumption. There are many DAS on the market but the degree of sophistication the system possesses, will of course, affect the level of optimisation. Driver Advisory Systems (DAS) have evolved significantly over the years, a distinction has been recognised between connected (C-DAS) systems and stand-alone (S-DAS). The latter is your less sophisticated advisory system, working only on the pre-planned timetable; meaning the advice it gives may not be useful if for any reason the trains planned path is unavailable.

Train drivers’ situational awareness is limited to the process of driving their own train. They are able to perceive the state of the train they are driving via indicators such as, ATP, feedback from the engine and wheels and the track ahead within their vision. Train drivers know how this information affects the train and so they can decide how to apply engine power and brakes in order to reach a certain speed, acceleration, and retardation, combined with a smooth and comfortable ride. However, train drivers completely lack any situational awareness concerning the traffic situation. This still rings true even with a stand-alone DAS fitted, due to the fact that S-DAS run off static information, meaning train drivers’ only source of information is predefined timetables and signal states. Based on this, they can only assume everything is according to the original plan. As soon as the situation deviates, which is a regular occurrence in the complex and dynamic train traffic process, train drivers have no other option but to make decisions based on obsolete information and ultimately drive suboptimal.

A complete picture

Connected Driver Advisory Systems (C-DAS) allows train drivers to gain a complete picture of the current state, understanding changes in the traffic situation and operational plans due to the systems real-time data feeds and constant recalculation of the driving profile, taking into consideration the external elements affecting the trains route. C-DAS includes information about the current traffic situation allowing drivers to develop a much more comprehensive situational awareness, enabling them to adapt an optimal driving profile.

KeTech has designed an award-winning C-DAS, developed working with both drivers and operators to identify the real requirements needed to deliver success. Digitising the whole network so that the system will know the track layouts, expansion routes, gradients, line speeds, speed restrictions, curvature, electrified tracks, junction details, platform numbering and lengths, level crossings plus any temporary or emergency speed restrictions (TSRs and ESRs) isn’t an easy job.

Consolidated infrastructure sources of the UK railway were non-existent, this meant KeTech had a challenge on their hands. KeTech pulled together disparate sources of information to create a top-secret database of the network. Constantly advancing our knowledge and collaborating, our Software Architects and Train Simulation Expert joined forces to understand the train characteristics and craft the algorithms to integrate the real-time data.

All of this data is essential to create a truly situationally aware system that is as dynamic as the railways. Unlike other systems, KeTech’s C-DAS provides specific driving advice to drivers; indicating recommended speed and advice concerning braking or coasting. Ensuring the right balance of detail in the advice is crucial to avoid additional mental workload for drivers.

From product benefits to the installation of C-DAS, this a versatile system provides the route towards reduced carbon emissions in more ways than one. The system can be especially environmentally beneficial for trains relying on friction brakes, such as freight due to the energy saving speed profiles that seek to minimise energy loss through braking; in turn, maintenance savings will be made as a result of reduced brake wear and tear.

More money spent on retrofit means less money spent on energy – investment rather than consumption spending. KeTech’s C-DAS is scalable and modular, it has been designed in a way for flexible deployment. It can be delivered as an integrated system, it can be displayed on an iPad, smartphone or existing hardware in the cab. KeTech’s system is not an off-the-shelf system, the possibilities of personalisation of the software really are endless. Just ask the question. KeTech created the system with retrofitting in mind – why? Ultimately to re-purpose perfectly good hardware, minimise installation time and save you money.

Overcoming obstacles

When KeTech present C-DAS they’re often met with the question “doesn’t C-DAS need to sit under a TMS?”. The answer is no, if you design it right and make it future-proof; and so, KeTech have created the only C-DAS that can provide the benefits of TMS, today.

The ultimate goal for C-DAS is for it to sit under a Traffic Management System (TMS) so that the re-planning of train movements can be immediately interpreted for advisory system displays. The rollout of TMS is a long way off and will not be fully deployed in the UK for many years, however when it is available KeTech’s C-DAS will seamlessly switch from non-TMS to TMS routes. KeTech utilised data sources in order to provide a C-DAS that is truly connected to the underlying infrastructure – this has been described as a key differentiator in the industry; KeTech’s system is futureproof and the only one able to offer the benefits of a TMS 15 years in advance.

KeTech has created a system that allows collaboration between human and algorithm, where the algorithms from its system can give drivers important incitements towards a more effective way of driving and ultimately a greener railway, driven by data. Implementing C-DAS will have a direct effect on reaching the goal of zero carbon by 2050 whilst improving passenger confidence on the railways. KeTech’s C-DAS is a futureproof investment that can grow with your fleet, it is the route to net zero, today.

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