Traffic Management Systems (TMS) becoming ever more important.
The quest for smarter transport operations in the UK is well underway; we’ve seen it in the road network with smart motorways and in railway, with the government encouraging the rail sector to work closer with technology firms to improve efficiency and the quality of journey for passengers.
Efficiency is a key word used in rail; the regulator of Network Rail, the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) talk about this frequently when monitoring performance.
In order to achieve this efficiency, traffic management solutions are becoming much more prevalent.
Based in Sweden, Cactus Rail has almost 30 years of experience in providing such solutions in the industry, improving the way railways operate, using cutting edge technology that detects problems and ensures the smooth operation of the network.
Cactus Rail’s Traffic Management Systems (TMS) and Cactus Communication Server (CCS) are both at the forefront of this technology. Constantly striving to improve, the company doesn’t stand still and instead, develops these solutions even further, bringing new technology to the market.
Fredrik Hansson is the company’s CTO. He spoke to Transport Britain about the abilities of both the TMS and CCS, and Cactus Rail’s ambitions to introduce this technology into the UK marketplace – something that would greatly benefit the rail network.
The full interview will appear in the next issue of Transport Britain.
Can you give us a bit of background about the company and its origins?
The company actually grew out of our sister business, Cactus Utilities, which worked on the whole water treatment network in Sweden – one of the first companies in the whole world to digitally control water treatment facilities.
This is a big part of our heritage; its systems are used by more than half of Sweden.
Cactus Rail is the second organization in the business and was established in 1989.
The origins of Cactus Rail are based in the identification that Stockholm’s Metro system needed an enlarged supervision system. Somebody at Cactus realised that the technology at Cactus could be used and that’s how we got started.
Success has followed; we are still running Stockholm’s Metro. Indeed, our supervision system covers and monitors all of the city’s Metro stations. Our equipment is based within every station; there are alarms for escalators and elevators; we have personal protection systems and they monitor ground water levels too.
Our Traffic Management System delivery started in 1990 when we were asked to trial our first system by the same customer in Stockholm, on one of the local train lines.
Fast forward to today and there are four local lines in Stockholm; all of these are controlled by our TMS. Elsewhere, we control a number of lines in Denmark, close to Copenhagen, and have a large control centre in the country.
From there, we have rolled out our TMS further and now have what we call the local CTC, which is like a traffic management system, albeit downscaled. There are two suppliers selected in Sweden, one of whom we work with.
As recently as autumn 2017, we achieved success, winning a contract for a long train line in Sweden – more than 1,000km of track travelling to the north of the country.
This includes our TMS but we also use our interface equipment in different stations too, as part of the contract.
What are your Traffic Management Systems and how do they work?
The main function of our TMS is to give the feeling of control; customers who use these solutions can manually control and present the status of the trains; they have the ability to set routes and allocate passage in the system.
On top of this core function, our system allows timetable information to be added so customers have knowledge on when certain trains arrive in certain positions; our automatic route setting function is based on this timetable information and track circuit occupancy, which shows how trains are moving.
There are also a great deal of management functions in our TMS, such as the ability to insert new train numbers, correct inaccurate information and inputting the location and routes of temporary trains.
Essential functionalities exist to interface towards external systems; for example, our solutions can present traction power status of a facility to ascertain whether or not there is power on the line.
As you can already tell, there are so many functions that help to give maximum benefit from existing infrastructure.
Through our systems, train graphs that show time and stations are aligned, showing how trains are progressing and moving. This helps to display any delays or breakdowns.
Inevitably, disturbances and accidents happen on the rail network. Our technology allows users to replay any event and see what has happened. This storing of data is invaluable.
How did the progression lead to the Cactus Communication Server? What does this provide for the industry?
Throughout our history, it has always been important to integrate and assist client systems. This is heavily valued in the rail industry, so it has given us great knowledge in interfacing different types of equipment.
The need for CCS was identified years ago when the Swedish transportation system wanted a new national TMS. What was a priority for them was one complete system for complete national control; we were well placed because of our knowledge of current facilities and communications of the different types of interlockings. As a result, we became a strong partner
However, what we lacked was a system of the scale required to control the entirety of Sweden. This is why we developed CCS: it is based on modern, truly scalable frameworks and development of best practices, and the methods and tools surrounding it used to secure automation to a very high extent.
One part of this automation is called continuous integration and it presents an automated approach to testing the system. One must understand that if such a system had a single point of failure, all trains in Sweden would stop. So we have put lots of efforts in testing all aspects of behaviour, such as testing seldom-occurring scenarios as often as possible, to prepare the system for all eventualities.
In the railway business, compliance to CENELEC standards are required; this is something that may appear as a quite heavy process burden. Our approach in this field is also automation to a large extent.
For all new code produced there must be an independent review by a separate party. In addition to this, tests are run on the specific parts of the code and this regression must also pass. Every night, we do what we call “crashing” the servers, as well as lots of other automated tests. This is an example of testing the seldom-occurring scenarios so that the coding stands up to scrutiny and ensures the system is a robust product. Every night, related documentation, such as requirement specifications, test specificatons, test reports, cross reference documents and delivery notes are also generated, i.e. we are continuously ready to deliver.
For all of our clients, we ensure that our systems can provide for the whole lifecycle of what they are meant to deliver. This is particularly important when you consider we have contracts that expect us to successfully run this CCS on their train lines.
Therefore, it’s crucial we have this rigorous automated process in place. Note however, once in place, it dramatically decreases the amount of manual work needed compared to a traditional manual approach.