by Josephine Cordero Sapién
29 Oct 2020
SNCF Réseau, the French rail infrastructure manager, has chosen Alstom, Hitachi and Thales to help develop the next generation of signal interlockings.
This work will take place within the ARGOS innovation partnership, which SNCF Réseau set up in 2018. It is now ready to move to the next stage. Over the next 30 months engineering teams from the partnership members and SNCF Réseau will research the best technical solution for SNCF Réseau’s needs and targets in the field of computer-controlled signal interlockings.
Computer-controlled interlockings ensure the safety of moving trains by controlling points and signal operations. Many interlocking boxes currently on the network are old or contain outdated technologies and need upgrading.
The ARGOS interlockings that are being developed will allow SNCF Réseau to replace its stock of electro-mechanical, electrical and purely mechanical signal boxes to fully digital systems.
The advantage of a digital system is that the information can be relayed in real time with more rapid incident response. This will lessen the effect of failures and maintenance and improve traffic flow. Furthermore, digital interlockings make intermediate relays unnecessary so that the amount of ground-based infrastructure and cabling required will be cut substantially. This will reduce installation and maintenance times as well as being gentler on the planet’s resources.
The ARGOS partnership is SNCF Réseau’s first multi-awardee partnership. The first phase was focused on research, while this next phase will centre on development. All parties in the partnership – the Thales, ENGIE Solutions, Vossloh Group; Alstom; and the Hitachi Rail, Eiffage Énergie Systèmes, SYSTRA group – have all been asked to upgrade an existing installation and develop pre-series interlockings. The first are on track for commissioning in late 2023.
Following the development period, SNCF Réseau and its industrial partners will work together via a 15-year rollout contract.
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