From lab to live – smart signals on the Metro Tunnel Project

Revolutionary signalling and technology upgrades being rolled out on the Metro Tunnel Project have already recorded tens of thousands of hours’ work by hundreds of people.

High Capacity Signalling will revolutionise travel on Melbourne’s network by allowing more trains to run, more often. Put simply, it’s a game-changer for Melburnians.

This work is being delivered by the Rail Systems Alliance (RSA) – responsible for the project’s signalling and technology “brains”.

High Capacity Signalling is a new high-tech “moving block” signalling system that enables trains to automatically adjust their speed to maintain a safe distance from the train in front.

This replaces the current conventional “fixed block” system, which uses coloured signals to indicate when it is safe for a train to proceed.

To visualise how it works, imagine driving on a freeway. 

Adaptive cruise control adjusts the vehicle speed according to the distance from the car ahead to help the driver travel more safely. 

Under the control of train drivers, High Capacity Signalling works in a similar way by communicating wirelessly between trains and a control centre. 

RSA integration and engineering governance manager Adam Morison said tests on the Mernda Line – featuring new technology on a retro-fitted X’Trapolis train – were combined with high-tech laboratory testing to ensure the system was safe.

RSA also uses integration testing to synchronise with the project’s tunnels and stations, tunnel entrance and rail infrastructure packages. 

“After design and testing, we’ve spent time in our Bourke St laboratory … we’ve then taken that same software into the environment in the field and then we’ve moved onto moving trains in that environment,” he said.

“We’ve finished technical and operational tests, where we’ve moved trains under HCS with all train, trackside and control centre equipment operating correctly and safely.”

“The moving parts includes the train, at least two drivers, a control centre (that requires two operators), testing and commissioning staff, and safe working staff, ensuring everything is controlled and safe.”

Adam said the new system’s testing regime was rigorous.

“There’s been more than eight years involved to get to this point,” he said.

“Many, many hundreds of people, many tens of thousands of hours of thinking, writing, doing, before we’re able to undertake the testing that proves these trains are ready for the Metro Tunnel and all the benefits that brings to Melbourne.”

“High Capacity Signalling fundamentally changes how we enable a turn-up-and-go system that revolutionises the metropolitan railway in Melbourne, how we run trains, how people experience those trains and the level of service we’re able to provide to the public.” •

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