The Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (Prasa) will soon go live to an intelligent digital railway solution that will improve communications, increase capacity and improve safety on the country’s metro rail network.
The five-year project is being carried out by a consortium of Huawei and Altech Alcom Matomo and includes construction, deployment and maintenance of 800km of the national network as well as training and skills transfer.
The contract was signed in 2013 and the network will go live in October this year.
The system uses GSM-R technology enabled by 153 new base stations in Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Construction is largely completed on these sites, with a number of them already in testing phase.
The project is part of a 20-year modernisation strategy being carried out at Prasa, which will result in the agency being able to provide a better service to the more than 9-million passengers it carries.
The network will allow for more efficient communication between operations staff like drivers, engineers and technicians, and the control rooms.
One of the major benefits that the GSM technology offers is the ability to carry voice and data simultaneously, so users can send all relevant information quickly and easily.
Field users, such as drivers, will be connected to the control room with two-way push-to-talk handsets.
The control room console will be used to route voice or data information back to filed users, and also includes an emergency button that will connect to emergency services in case this is needed.
The GSM-R system is a digital train to ground communication system following the international wireless GSM standard and EIRENE specifications for railway communication and applications. The GSM-R system put into operation is a sub-system of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS).
The Prasa solution includes an IP soft switch core network that will support evolution from the legacy to the Future Railway Mobile Communication Systems (FRMCS) which is currently being specified by the International Union of Railways (UIC).
The base transceiver stations (BTSs) of the access network form a ring topology to protect against faults in transmission links through transmission network redundancy. Additionally, base station controller (BSC) were deployed for each of the three regions, accommodating for BSC remote disaster recovery procedures.
The system adopts patented hot-standby mechanisms for all network elements (NEs) of the GSM-R network and co-site dual-network technology, coupled with a Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) network.
Norman Frisch, chairman of the eLTE Industry Alliance and marketing director of the transport sector for Huawei Enterprise Business Group, comments: “Huawei’s GSM-R system will help not only the South African railway network enter the cutting-edge digital age, but will also play a pivotal role in the planning and building future railway networks across South Africa and its neighboring countries.”
The Prasa system is the second that Huawei has implemented in Africa, and it also the biggest, Frisch adds.
Earlier this month, Kenya railway communication network went live on the Mombasa-Nairobi line.
The Kenyan digital railway solution enables multiple communications tasks, including mission-critical train dispatch, emergency communications, section maintenance communications, secure transmission, and ensures stable power supply along the entire line.
Huawei’s GSM-R solution was deployed to build the train-to-ground communications network. With end-to-end redundancy backup and 99,999% availability, the network guarantees stable transmission of train control signals.