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  • The digital railway: an integrated workflow for efficient planning and dispatch


    The digital railway: an integrated workflow for efficient planning and dispatch


    Digitalisation is rapidly transforming the rail industry. All over the world, railway operators are investing in their IT in order to leverage the benefits and opportunities of the digital transformation and make themselves more competitive. They are using sophisticated IT systems such as IVU.rail from Berlin-based IT specialist IVU Traffic Technologies to evaluate their comprehensive data, simplify processes and boost their efficiency.


    Until a few years ago, the tasks at most rail companies were largely separate: the paths of planners, personnel dispatchers, vehicle dispatchers, operations managers and drivers rarely crossed. Each task had its own systems and workflows that were often vastly different. Although IT systems were used in many places, the operational view of the processes remained analogue and geared towards conventional roles.


    This is now changing: “With the rise in digitalisation, the previous limited understanding of roles is increasingly being replaced by a holistic system view,” explains Martin Müller-Elschner, CEO of IVU Traffic Technologies. “Individual departments operating solely for themselves are disappearing fast.


    Instead, tasks and roles are converging, in some cases overlapping and influencing each other.” What once seemed impossible due to the manual processes involved is now being performed by IT systems that simplify the complex interactions between timetables, runs and duties.


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  • LOOKING TO THE SKIES


    LOOKING TO THE SKIES


    Drones are in the news as big groups and start-ups alike compete and/or join forces to launch flying taxis for cities. Whether and when they will take off is anyone’s guess. Less The Fifth Element, more here and now, the railways are already using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for maintenance and surveillance purposes.


    Whether and when they will take off is anyone’s guess. Less The Fifth Element, more here and now, the railways are already using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for maintenance and surveillance purposes.


    In a 2016 white paper, Uber presented uberAIR, its vision of a flying cab system – ‘to create efficient cities with less congestion and cleaner air’.


    Its Elevate programme, launched the same year, has been working over the past 24 months to build a network of all-electric, vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft powered by distributed electric propulsion.


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  • The UITP Global Public Transport Summit Seven Months to Go!


    The UITP Global Public Transport Summit Seven Months to Go!


    Next year, UITP will host the Global Public Transport Summit in Stockholm (9-12 June 2019) and over the next year, we will be counting down with a special focus on our Exhibition.


    November marks seven months to go until the biggest event in public transport and urban mobility opens its doors!


    So let’s get down to it, and bring you the latest update on who’s coming, who’s showing and what you can see from the international public transport community, mobility decision-makers and industry suppliers, all under one roof.


    UITP’s biennial Summit, organised in partnership with 2019 local host SL, and is the only event that covers the challenges of urban mobility worldwide.


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  • Towards railway-specific, bearer independent communication


    Towards railway-specific, bearer independent communication


    Over recent years, the railways have realised that placing sole reliance on a single radio platform for their voice and data needs is not the best of approaches.


    Essentially because it creates dependency on one single technology, one single platform, and results in deeply integrated yet inflexible services. Railway-specific, bearer independent communication offers an appealing alternative already adopted by the Finnish Transport Agency (FTA).


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  • Times are changing for women in rail
    Special meeting with Jennifer Bächli


    Times are changing for women in rail


    Only 16% of the rail industry is made up of women and even smaller number are in senior, decision-making posts.


    We believe that there are a lot of initiatives in the industry, but we are sure that working together will bring greater success!


    Special meeting with a woman who will inspire other women. Jennifer Bächli, Head of Marketing at BÄCHLI AG


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  • STEVO Electric
    testing you can count on


    Testing you can count on


    DC-high speed circuit breakers (DC-HSCB) have been used on the railways since their electrification at the end of the 19th century. To ensure these vital devices perform effectively, the BALTO line of testing equipment by STEVO Electric is at your service.


    Why is it so important to test DC-HSCBs? “To protect passengers in trains, rail staff and assets,” said Wim D’Hooghe, Head of Global Sales, STEVO Electric.


    “There have been cases where the current on lines has increased, due to faulty circuit breakers, leading to metal melting in the trains operating along them. Also, it’s important to protect the switch gear in traction sub-stations – again, there have been accidents in the past here too.”


    When DC-HSCBs cut off the power, they also handle arcing internally to reduce the risk of electrocution for maintenance workers.


    Another factor to consider, DC-HSCBs are robust devices with impressively long service lives – “up to 40 years and even longer,” pointed out Mr D’Hooghe. “During this time, their springs and other components are simply replaced in the workshop then returned into service, typically without prior testing to check whether they are functioning correctly.”


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  • BLASCHKE – Cleaner air is our passion

    CLEANER AIR IS OUR PASSION


    In railway maintenance depots, hands may get grimy but Blaschke Umwelttechnik GmbH keeps the air clean.


    For over 40 years, the Bavaria-based manufacturer has been supplying exhaust extraction systems to the sector, with French Railways (SNCF) its longest standing and biggest client outside Germany.


    Exhaust fumes emitted when servicing and maintaining diesel motor blocks in closed workshops pose a health risk to workers.


    EThe particle components released – such as carbon monoxides, nitrogen oxides, benzene, hydrocarbons and rust particles, depending on the engine and fuel types – are classified carcinogenic by the World Health Organization (WHO).


    In response, over the years Blaschke has developed a range of extraction systems designed to control exhaust fume emissions in workshops.


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  • TOMORROW'S TRANSPORT:
    PRIVILEGE OF BIG CITIES ?

    TOMORROW'S TRANSPORT: PRIVILEGE OF BIG CITIES ?


    “Congestion is the enemy of GNP. We must bear this in mind. Political decisions that go against mobility go against GNP” – Jérôme Dubus, Paris city councillor, 17th district.


    “Autonomous vehicles are not the privilege of big cities. We have projects planned or ongoing in Rungis, Saclay, and Verdun” – Coralie Renard, head of sales and marketing – autonomous transport systems, Transdev.


    “Despite our name, we’re not promising the moon but a system that could help ease congestion on existing rail routes” – Emeuric Gleize, CEO, SpaceTrain.


    A round table on March 15, organised by students on the M2 Affaires publiques – Promo 2017/2018 course at Université Paris-Dauphine, explored how tomorrow’s mobility might impact territoires, together with the socio-economic issues at stake.


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  • INCIDENT MANAGEMENT SOLUTION
    Dealing with the unexpected



    INCIDENT MANAGEMENT SOLUTION - DEALING WITH THE UNEXPECTED


    As public transport services become increasingly customer-focused (the name change from ‘passengers’ says it all), what helps an operator really stand out and strengthen or weaken their brand is how they respond to the unexpected.


    Yet when these events occur, an efficient incident management solution can really make the difference. It puts operators in a position to communicate information to the relevant parties and trigger the right processes, thus ensuring the necessary steps are taken to revert to normal operations as soon as possible.


    Disruptions to normal service are inevitable for all operators, no matter how efficient their overall performance. Signalling or power failures, or the U.K.’s infamous ‘leaves on the track’ moments(!) for example, may cause ‘minor delays’. And then there are emergency situations such as a bomb alert, where passenger safety is at risk.


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  • TRACK AND TRAIN MONITORING
    THE NEXT DIMENSION

    A leader in wheel detection and axle counting, Frauscher Sensor Technology is looking to take track and train monitoring into the next dimension. Since launching its Frauscher Tracking Solutions FTS, based on Distributed Acoustic Sensing (DAS) technology, in 2016, the Austrian supplier has been busy demonstrating its applications on networks across the globe.


    Given the growing numbers of rail passengers worldwide, operators and infrastructure managers are under increasing capacity pressure. Keeping track and train downtime to a minimum, while maintaining high levels of safety, has never been so critical. Maximum availability across entire networks is now the name of the game.


    Yet delivering such highly efficient rail operations calls for consistent monitoring in real time of components of every track and train. This explains why, over the past five years, interest in fibre optic acoustic sensing, based on technologies such as DAS, has gained momentum among railway operators and signalling experts.


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  • GPTS Montréal:
    Alstom, how smart can you go?

    Paris, April 27:A bus-inspired-by-a-tram and systems designed to boost the IQ of transport took centre stage at Alstom's press conference today.



    "Our vision of 'smart mobility' goes beyond digital tech to better integration of rail into urban mobility," said CEO Henri Poupart-Lafarge.

    Rather than reinventing the wheel, Alstom's take on 'smart mobility' is very much a question of improving the existing.

    Solutions range from the 100% electric Aptis bus and self-driving shuttles to real-time metro maps, train carriage occupancy info., and predictive maintenance for rolling stock. All-in-all, a portfolio due to be further showcased at UITP's upcoming Global Public Transport Summit (GPTS) in Montréal.




    First and foremost, Aptis. Twelve metres long with capacity for 100 passengers, the current prototype is low floor, feels more about standing room than seated, has deep bay windows and 'lounge-style' seating at the back. Charging can be ‘opportunity’ – at night in the depot, or rapidly at the end of each line during daily operations – or ‘fast’, either via inverted pantograph or Alstom’s SRS ground charging system.

    Electric bus or tram? I asked Dr Harry Hondius (expert in the field) the obvious, confident he would (as always) say it like it is. "Can you see any rails? It's a bus, a bus I tell you!" he told me. That's that sorted then.

    Worth noting, the axles are located at the extremities of the vehicle (giving it crab-like allure) to deliver a smoother ride and reduce the draw-in radius required for drivers to dock at stops – "which is, for example, typically around 15 metres in Paris," pointed out Mr Poupart-Lafarge. "Aptis is designed to considerably reduce, if not eliminate these metres altogether.”

    Refusing to be drawn on the purchasing price, he focused instead on its purported range of 200km, low maintenance and operating costs. According to a press release, '[the vehicle has] total cost of ownership equivalent to current diesel buses.

    Developed by Alstom and its Alsace-based subsidiary NTL, Aptis is due to be tested in Paris and its region in the coming months.

    'Ville de Paris, transport authority the Stif, and operator RATP are currently working out the details of an ambitious programme baptised Grand Paris des Bus. Likely to be put into action from end-2018, early-2019, this highly complex plan seeks to restructure and upgrade the network serving the city and its surroundings'.

    Bridging that gap


    Having acquired undisclosed shares in self-driving shuttle start-up EasyMile (see photo below), Alstom is clearly seeking to boost its chances when bidding for higher capacity public transport tenders (rail, metro, tram, bus) in years to come.




    Offering these autonomous vehicles (AVs) (software developed by EasyMile, vehicles built by manufacturer Ligier), as a first/last mile 'add-on' to its system offers is probably a good move for Alstom. As part of the drive to encourage multi-modal travel, public transport operators and authorities (often cash strapped) are increasingly seeking ways and means, such as bike and ride sharing, or better buses, to efficiently fill crucial journey gap; to avoid the need for cars.

    'Last week, New York City Council passed a bill that requires the NYC Department of Transportation to study and propose solutions to subway deserts — neighborhoods with poor access to a system whose average weekday ridership is more than five million'.



    Source: nextcity.org – 1 May 2017 – ‘New York City Council Wants to Find a Cure for Transit Deserts’, by Josh Cohen.

    ‘Autonomous vehicles: a potential game changer for urban mobility’, a paper released in January 2017 by UITP, details the challenges ahead and outlines a way forward for introducing AVs to cities.


    From building trains making mobility happen... better


    Paris, April 27: A bus-inspired-by-a-tram and systems designed to boost the IQ of transport took centre stage at Alstom's press conference today.

    • Optimet OrbanMap, an intelligent metro map that passengers can consult in stations. Developed by Metrolab (Alstom's 2011 joint venture with public transport operator RATP), it provides real-time traffic and city information (via social media).



    • Linked to OrbanMap and also developed by Metrolab, the Optimet real-time train occupancy system is designed to enhance passenger flow and reduce crowding on trains. "It should enable time savings of around 10 to 15% during boarding and alighting," said Mr Poupart-Lafarge.



    • Alstom's acquisition of Nomad Digital has given it a strong foothold in the fields of passenger Wi-Fi, infotainment, driver assistance, and remote condition monitoring systems for the rail.

    • HealthHub – a predictive maintenance system for trains, signalling, and infrastructure.

    • To boost management of multimodal operations, the Mastria control system brings together the different transport systems serving a city (bus, metro, train, tram). Algorithms are used to anticipate increases in passenger demand (weather, big public events) and so allow operators to deploy fleets in consequence = smarter capacity and energy use.



    Future forward – power of partnerships


    When it comes to innovation, Alstom is clearly not seeking to reinvent the wheel from A to Z. Nor does it intend to do anything new all by itself. Instead the company strategy appears to be based in large part on channelling its existing expertise into new fields. Forging partnerships with tech firms and other outfits doing things it can't, or doing them better, is also part of the plan.



    Alstom owns undisclosed shared in EasyMile with two objectives in mind – to include AVs in its system offers and, at a later date, integrate the technology into Aptis. A recent development, this April Alstom signed a cooperation agreement with Airbus to exchange knowledge on cybersecurity.

    "We are proud to cooperate with Airbus, the world leader in aviation, on this programme, which will provide operators with innovative and efficient cybersecurity solutions for safer transport," said Pascal Cléré, senior VP of Alstom's Digital Mobility division.
    "This cooperation is fully in line with our ambition to be the precursor of the field of railway cybersecurity."

    The autonomy of intercity trains and leadership of the market come 2020 are also in its sights. On this topic, Mr Poupart-Lafarge was keen to point out how the benefits of this technology will go beyond cost savings on drivers. “It will enable greater flexibility of fleets with regards infrastructure and factors external to the trains.”

    On the hot topic of consolidation, Alstom's number one remained elusive: "We are in a good position to benefit from developments over the past five years."

    He doesn't see hyperloop technology (French Railways/SNCF has invested in it) and flying vehicles (as in Dubai) as direct competitors to rail; but doesn't dismiss them altogether either. Indeed, the message is clear – “if integration opportunities arise from these technologies in the years to come, Alstom is interested.”


    Alstom at the GPTS Montréal – Stand N°: 2K104


    Photo sources: Alstom and Passion4Transport

  • Eurostar Business Premier
    consume in moderation

    Paris, February 3: Eurostar invited journalists and other guests to discover its new Business Premier Lounge at Paris Gare du Nord.




    Spread across a lavish mezzanine (formerly housing French Railways/SNCF offices) overlooking the interior of the C19th station on one side, rue de Dunkerque on the other, this VIP (very important passenger) hideaway features high plastered ceilings, marble fireplaces, cosy nooks, artworks, and to-die-for cocktail station.

    Chef Raymond Blanc is very much on board too.

    “It combines the best of Paris with touches of London,” said Nicolas Petrovic, managing director, Eurostar.




    (Above) Nicolas Petrovic (left), managing director, Eurostar, with Patrick Laval, journalist, La Vie du Rail

    Designed by the London-based architectural studio Softroom, highlights include elegant blue-grey Bleu de Savoie marble and an overhead lighting fixture suggesting (to some) the points and switches of rail tracks.

    Overall, the feel of the space is Parisian apartment chic meets British cosy quirk – sofas, rugs, cushions, soft lighting, copious mags and papers (albeit sleek and meticulously ordered, French formal garden style, rather than lying around crumpled à la British).




    With available seating in all shapes and forms for 160 guests, Softroom founders and directors Christopher Bagot and Oliver Salway talked about “generosity of space that is quite tightly organised.”




    The catering, overseen by Mr Blanc in his Business Premier culinary director’s toque, is, as one would expect, world’s apart your typical station fare (depressed jambon-beurre baguettes and desperate coffee).


    “Top quality nuts and crisps, and much more besides,” said Mr Petrovic. “The choice of food ranges from very healthy to a lot less healthy.”

    Light bites in verrines or more substantial plated delicacies, saucisson, cheeses, enticing fruit and vegetable juices, ‘grown in England’ tea by producer Tregothnan, and four coffee machines to ensure nobody is ever kept waiting.


    Upstairs downstairs?


    The circular cocktail station, in gleaming black and gold with velvet stools, is a real eye-catcher. Sunken below floor level, it certainly gives drinkers the upper hand as they scrutinise every move of the staff below concocting their tipples. However the aim, it seems, was more to avoid the bar dominating the lounge and ensure an unbroken vista of the space as a whole.




    Move over Tom Cruise, mixologist Florent, 27 (above) is on top of his game. He’ll shake you up a Lady Marmalade, but Sex on the Beach is a big no no.

    The menu, lovingly crafted by the London Cocktail Club and Mr Blanc, not only features ingredients such as the humble marmalade, but also the chef’s beloved angelica, Eurostar’s signature Toujours 21 gin, coffee, and even Tregothnan tea.

    Operation seduction led by JJ Goodman, ebullient CEO of the London Cocktail Club & an enthusiastic Raymond Blanc

    Obviously feeling a need to justify the presence of alcohol in a railway setting, Mr Petrovic described the bar as a great way for business people to network, a place for productive time. “Whether a good or bad day, it’s nice to relax over drinks – of course when consumed in moderation!” he hastened to add.




    One of the guests, a banker (sipping an alcohol-free beverage) told Passion4Transport she would definitely be back at the bar on her next trip.




    (Above) The uniquely chic Gilly Smith, podcast producer for ‘Delicious’ & husband Jed Novick


    Making its (m)art


    Today art is often used by businesses as an extension of their corporate image. It may serve to render spaces more aesthetically pleasing, to stimulate the workforce, and/or to impress visitors. For its new lounge, Eurostar has commissioned The Hospital Club to curate contemporary artworks, all for sale, on its generous stretches of wall.


    Enter another dimension


    Flanked by dynamic, bird’s eye views – Paris street and station panorama – the up-in-the-air lounge exists in its very own time and space dimension. The only downside – it takes longer to reach the Eurostar trains than from the previous VIP retreat, located flush above the platform. “But it shouldn’t take more than a three-minute walk and we’re confident the enhanced ‘experience’ is well worth it,” said Philippe Mouly, COO, Eurostar..




    Very Important Passenger – Very Important Segment


    Business travel is big business for Eurostar, representing “a very important segment for us, with Paris, Brussels and London as the key pivot points,” said Mr Petrovic.

    Given the stakes a play – the niggling presence and popularity of low-cost flights, plus the impending arrival of a rail rival in the form of the German Deutsche Bahn (which obtained the right to run passenger services through the Channel Tunnel from the British and French authorities in 2013, but has yet to launch) – improving the business experience and perceived value for money is an absolute must if Eurostar is to stay the pace.




    Indeed the Business Premier lounge forms part of Eurostar’s ongoing investment in its stations and services.

    A new fleet of longer and higher capacity trains, the e320 by Siemens, cost the company an impressive €600 million. Check-in facilities at Gare du Nord are visibly expanding to cope with more passengers and ensure the smoothest possible flow.

    Following on from the new London-Avignon/Marseille offer, introduced in May 2015, this year will see the opening of a direct route between London-Rotterdam-Amsterdam.

    Eurostar system: home-from-home for the elite traveller, this lap of luxury retreat is not beyond the wildest dreams of those of us mere mortals!



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