Interstate trains embrace digital radio communications

Last analog radio systems turned off in NSW, Victoria

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has turned off its last two analog radio systems.

The ARTC has been switching off its seven regional analog systems in phases since 2007, replacing them with the digital Telstra NextG network in a project funded by the federal government. The final two analog systems were located in Victoria and New South Wales.

“The ‘switch off’ of the old radio systems in NSW and Victoria means freight trains operating on ARTC’s national freight rail network now use a single, safer, digital radio system,” ARTC CEO John Fullerton said.

“In saying goodbye to analog radio we can clearly see one [of] the reasons why ARTC was established – to drive a co-ordinated and planned approach to investment across the national rail freight network to make it simpler and easier for customers to use,” he said.

“The implementation of the digital, 3G-based National Train Communications System (NTCS) project, in close cooperation with Telstra, provides a single, digital backbone to ARTC communications, a true national communications network interoperable with systems across the nation.”

While the physical network including mobile communications towers and satellites had been in place since June 2010, the ARTC has only just completed the retrofitting and testing of In-cab Communications Equipment (ICE) units across the national locomotive fleet and multiple operators.

Today, 900 trains with ICE units operate across the country, including 704 units supplied by ARTC as part of the NTCS project.

“Not only does ICE provide a single interface for train drivers right across the interstate network, ARTC saves costs by no longer needing to operate multiple communications platforms,” said Fullerton.

The digital network also enables many safety applications, including safe travelling distance technology (proximity alerting), real-time locomotive tracking, sophisticated track and wayside monitoring technology, track awareness support systems and the next generation of ARTC freight management, the Advanced Train Management System (ATMS), the ARTC said.

Adam Bender covers telco and enterprise tech issues for Computerworld and is the author of dystopian sci-fi novels We, The Watched and Divided We Fall. Follow him on Twitter: @WatchAdam

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU, or take part in the Computerworld conversation on LinkedIn: Computerworld Australia

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