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Global System for Mobile Communications – Railways (GSM-R)

The Global System for Mobile Communications – Railways (GSM-R) provides a highly reliable and secure communication between critical operational rail personnel, in particular, train drivers and signallers.

The system uses a combination of fixed and mobile digital communications technology to an internationally recognised standard, and is used on virtually the whole GB mainline rail network, phased in between 2007 and 2016.

It replaces old analogue radio networks which were becoming costly to maintain and had limited functionality. Instead, GSM-R uses modern digital technology required for new systems such as ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) part of the emerging ‘digital railway’.

GSM-R is also compliant with the Control Command and Signalling (CCS) Technical Specification for Interoperability (TSI) which includes the specifications developed by the International Union of Railways (UIC) and published by the European Union of Agency for Railways. Indeed, GSM-R has been used across Europe, Asia and northern Africa.

On GSM-R, we provide engineering, operations, human factors, safety and risk management expertise to our members in the GB rail industry. This has included supporting how voice radio equipment is fitted into train driving cabs, associated standards, operational rules, procedures and training.

Standards and rules

Go to our Standards Catalogue to find the most up-to-date standards and rules specific to GSM-R.

GSM-R User Procedures and Crib Card

​TheGSM-R User Procedures – Cab mobile are produced as support document for training and operational purposes to be used in conjunction with national rules. They explain how the Siemens GSM-R cab radio works and how it should be used.

The document has been updated regularly to reflect software updates.

The current version; Issue 7.1, was updated in June 2015 to include changes associated with software versions NR 3.X up to and including NR 3.5.

Companies have also requested a small concise document (known asCrib Card), that can be carried by end users on a daily basis as a quick reference guide for seldom used processes, or where there is potential for error.

A summary of the Crib Card content is as follows:

  • Description of button functions
  • Giving a Non Verbal Acknowledgement to a Safety Broadcast
  • Registration tips and dealing with associated failures
  • Driver to Driver Communication Using the Multiparty Call Function

Managing operational risk when GSM-R equipment fails

GSM-R is highly reliable, but we have informed industry’s approach to managing risk should GSM-R equipment fail, to help individual rail companies take evidence-based decisions about the extent to which train services can continue.

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