Pre-recorded warnings could help keep trains moving

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Train drivers could soon be getting advance warning of problems ahead of them by pre-recorded messages broadcast aloud in the cab, on-the-go.

New advice published by rail industry body RSSB means that signallers now have the option of alerting drivers approaching poor rail conditions on-the-move by an automated message.  This means drivers can adapt their driving technique in response.

Poor rail conditions lead to a loss of adhesion between the train and rail, brought about by the weather or contamination of the rails, most notoriously by “leaves on the line”.

By acknowledging the advance warning, drivers can show the signaller they’ve heard and understood the message, without the need to be signalled down to a stop to be given the message manually, which can cause delays to passengers.

All trains operating on the mainline network already have the necessary technology installed, as since 2014, Britain’s railways have used a modern digital communication system known as GSM-R.  This system allows signallers to pre-record messages which play aloud to train drivers at a designated location.

RSSB’s Director of Standards, Tom Lee explains: This is a great opportunity for the railway to take advantage of existing technology to unlock benefits for both safety and reliability of train services to passengers and freight customers. GSM-R is a modern and robust cab-to-shore communication technology which is now well-established and so allows us to now explore its full potential for improving the way rail services are run.

Further information:

  • More information on the changes to the Rule Book about adhesion is on the website – this includes a short 2-minute video and a downloadable briefing note - See here
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