British train operators may soon be able to track and collect real-time information from their rail stock on all routes across the UK.
This is the hope of global navigations firm, Nottingham Scientific Limited (NSL), which is in the process of developing a pre-commercial device to explore the potential of satellite systems within the rail sector.
‘The technology now exists for the rail sector to have all the information ready in the same way as an air traffic control centre,’ said Mark Dumville, general manager at NSL, ‘But we need to demonstrate that it can be viable on a large-scale.’
NSL’s research is part of a project known as the Intelligent Railway via Integrated Satellite Services (IRISS) which is being done in collaboration with East Midlands Trains (EMT) and the European Space Agency (ESA).
Over the next six months, the group is planning to complete a prototype test bed that will integrate terrestrial and satellite-based communication services into a unified device fitted to the roof of a train.
If the demonstration is successful, Dumville hopes that train operators throughout the country will be able to gain access to live CCTV, passenger information, position and systems maintenance feeds as the train is on the move.
‘Essentially it allows the train operator to have a standard way of getting all the information off the train and getting data onto the train, irrespective of where the train is in the UK,’ said Dumville. ‘So if there is ever an incident you’ve got real time access where you can download the black box or cctv footage immediately.’
Broadband satellite operator, Avanti Communications, is expected to provide support for the first phase of the IRISS project, while funding is being provided by ESA under its Integrated Applications Programme (IAP).