ERSAT satellite system: positive verdict of European railway signalling experts

Trials are underway on the Cagliari - San Gavino line

Rome, 12 July 2016

The ERSAT EAV satellite technology system (ERTMS on SATELLITEEnabling Application Validation) has passed the verdict of expert European railway signalling engineers and technicians with flying colours.

Specialists from major railway companies which use the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), as the Italian Railway Network does, to establish a safe distance between trains - DB Netz, SNCF, SBB, Prorail, Network Rail, Trafickverkert, Bane DK, JBV and ADIF - have assessed and recognised the operational and managerial potential of ERSAT: including its perfect detection of the train through satellite technology (virtual buoys) and excellent track-side/on-board information exchange via Internet Protocols (IP) using the public GSM network.

The field test was conducted during the trial run from Cagliari to Decimomannu in Sardinia for the 82nd general meeting of the ERTMS User Group.

ERSAT (ERTMS + Satellite) is a signalling system which, as a world exclusive, interconnects and integrates railway technology - the ERTMS signalling system - with the GALILEO satellite navigation and location system.

In the future the new system, which is currently pending approval, will be used to monitor and manage railway traffic safely on local and regional conventional branch lines. Under ERSAT, it can be installed on almost 45% of the conventional branch network, replacing the current safety systems, and on a large part of the European network. Furthermore, it can be used to monitor and manage permitted urban and non-urban railway lines.

RFI and DB Netz (the operators of the Italian and German railway infrastructures) and Trenitalia are conducting practical trials in Sardinia together with ASSTRA (an association with over 140 public and private companies working in local, urban and non-urban public transport). The tests, coordinated by Ansaldo STS, will be finished by January 2017. Thanks to support from the European Space Agency (ESA), the Italian Space Agency (ASI) and the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA), the goal is to integrate and validate satellite technologies in the ERTMS signalling system and to certify the technology by 2017.

Due to how important and new ERSAT is to Europe, the certification method for the installation of the system comes directly from the National Railway Safety Agency (ANSF) and the European Railway Agency (ERA).

The ERTMS has been operational for over ten years on High Speed/High Capacity System lines in Italy, including the vertical axis of Turin - Milan - Bologna - Florence - Rome - Naples - Salerno, transmitting data and information by using the GSM-R system (Global System Mobile-Railway) reserved for railway companies. It follows the running of the train at every instant, providing the driver with all the necessary instructions to drive safely, including activation of the emergency brakes if all the parameters are not respected and the train exceeds the permitted speed limit.

With ERSAT, once the location of the train (position and speed) has been received by satellite, the ERTMS supervises the railway traffic situation through track-side/on-board interaction: data and information are transmitted to devices installed on board the convoys by radio bases positioned along the railway line about every seven kilometres. Line buoys are now used every 1.3 km for the same activities.
When the ERTMS is integrated with the GALILEO satellite system, it will allow European railways to give an immediate, concrete answer to the economic sustainability of regional railway lines, but further afield as well given that in the future it could be applied to all types of lines, including High Speed and busier lines.

In addition to connecting the railway industry with the world of satellites, the ERSAT system will significantly increase the performance of detecting trains and will cut maintenance costs thanks to the reduction of track-side components (removal of buoys and electric cables).