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How is satellite technology expected to monitor and manage rail traffic on European tracks?

Posted by Emily O'Dowd on Mar 9, 2017

The first European projeSatellite technology tests have been completed for regional rail traffic.ct of its kind has been testing a satellite technology known as the ERSAT EAV system to monitor and manage rail traffic on 28,000km of Europe’s tracks. This breakthrough could become the answer for all train operators looking to improve their safety, modernise tracks, lower costs and improve performance; several field tests have already been held in Italy, Sardinia and Germany. The last trial journey between Cagliari and Decimomannu on the Cagliari - San Gavino line in Italy, where the experimental centre was located, was completed last month. Italy's rail network, Rete Ferroviaria Italiana is hoping to have the new technology approved and certified according to the standards dictated by the EUAR on a European-wide scale, and the ANSF on a national scale, with the first line being activated in Italy by 2020.

The ERSAT EAV system integrates the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) with the Galileo satellite navigation and geo-location system, and the public telecommunications networks. The new technology locates the trains via satellite, and interfaces with the ERTMS system, which monitors the rail traffic. Data and information can be passed through the devices which are installed on board the train as well as the radio units positioned along the railway line.

ERSAT EAV testing has been taking place in Sardinia since early 2015 as part of the European Horizon 2020 research programme. The project has been managed by the 3InSat consortium which brought together RFI and Ansaldo STS with the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency and the Italian and European Space agencies. Technology partner Ansaldo STS suggests that ERTMS life-cycle costs could be significantly reduced by using the satellite technology. This could save up to 60 per cent in the telecoms component. RFI hopes to have the first commercial deployment in place by 2020, and envisages that the technology could be developed for use on busier routes and high speed lines.


“The successful outcome of the demonstration campaign confirms the viability of GNSS technology for rail’, according to Salvatore Sabina, Head of Satellite Projects at Ansaldo STS. "We are now ready to implement the virtual balise concept." The company has already supplied a SIL-4 compliant satellite-based train control system for the Roy Hill iron ore line in Western Australia, which is based on the same technology.

With the aim of improving competitiveness and sustainability in the field, satellite navigation systems are being increasingly employed within the railway sector. GSA is working to integrate the existing satellite navigation technologies (namely Galileo and EGNOS) within the rail traffic signalling and control systems, thus improving safety and communications between the train and the technology present on the network.

Click here to read the digital guide - Using Data to Enhance Rail and Metro Operational PerformanceIn the future, the system will be able to be installed on approximately 28,000km of railway lines throughout Europe, and will even be applied on licensed railways. In fact, thanks to the satellite geo-location service and the communications over public networks, the installation and management costs will be reduced, thus rendering the lower traffic regional lines economically sustainable, while at the same time increasing the standards of regularity, punctuality and safety for rail traffic

Testing is also taking place in France alongside SNCF to create new solutions to improve the operation and control of regional trains and railway infrastructure. The Occitanie/Pyrénées-Méditerranée Region and GUIDE (GNSS Testing Laboratory) signed an agreement last September to open a railway line to field tests for companies seeking to perform assessments aboard trains. The Geofer project, managed by GUIDE, will allow the testing of applications in operational situations. Tests will be carried out on the Tessonnieres-Rodez line, a mountainous location which allow them to be carried out in a constrained environment.

For more related content you might be interested in:

Expert View: The security concerns facing the rail industry’s adoption of GNSS.

The challenge of protecting transit and passenger rail: understanding how security works against terrorism.


Topics: TransportSecurity

Emily O'Dowd

Written by Emily O'Dowd

On graduating with a degree in English Literature at Royal Holloway University of London, Emily joined the editorial team. When she isn't writing articles for the website or interviewing experts in the industry she enjoys reading, running and sailing.

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