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Rail and Metro Industry Glossary

Automatic Train Control (ATC) is a technical installation for trains aiming to ensure safe operation in the case of human error, through a speed control mechanism that responds to external inputs. ATC as a whole is a package of all automatic functions (Automatic Train Supervision, Automatic Train Protection and Automatic Train Operation) that can also involve manual intervention. ATC allows for considerable benefits to safety and performance and can result in up to 8% more trains running in the same rail system.

Automatic Train Operation (ATO) is a safety enhancement device, mainly used in conjunction with the driver of the train, that helps operate the train from controlling the speed to closing doors. There are 5 grades of automation listed by the UITP, ranging from the driver starting and stopping the train, operating the doors and handling emergencies, to full control of the train by the automatic system even during emergencies and sudden diversions. The result of ATO is that trains are more exact and timely resulting in the removal of delays and more trains per hour.

Automatic Warning System (AWS) is a form of limited cab signalling that acts as a safeguard against a driver failing to respond to a signal or misreading it. As part of the signalling system it warns the driver whether the signal is clear or not through electromagnetic induction to the train from equipment fixed in the track known as an ‘AWS magnet’. AWS is a fail-safe designed to prevent any catastrophic failure resulting from a disregard of prior warnings.

Computer Based Interlocking (CBI) is the use of computers to implement interlocking, with interlocking being defined in North America as "An arrangement of signals and signal appliances so interconnected that their movements must succeed each other in proper sequence". CBI’s are generally implanted through one section that implements safety and failsafe requirements, and one section that implements non-vital controls and indications.

Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) is a railway signalling system that makes use of the telecommunications between the train and track equipment for the traffic management and infrastructure control. It enables, the exact position of a train is known more accurately than with the traditional signalling systems. This results in a more efficient and safe way to manage the railway traffic. By adopting CBTC, metros and railways are able to improve headways while maintaining or even improving safety.

Driver Only Operation (DOO), also known as One-Man (or Person) operation (OMO) and Single Person Train Operation (SPTO), is the operation of a train, tram or bus by a driver without a conductor. European freight trains are normally driver only operated, as well as being on the rise among train operating companies, (though on these passenger trains it’s required all doors can be seen so it’s safe for departure). Driver only operations are mainly used to reduce costs but have been widely criticised for being unsafe.

European Train Control System (ETCS) is the signalling and control component of the European Rail Traffic Management System and technically a type of PTC. It’s implemented through standardised trackside equipment and unified controlling equipment and constantly calculates a safe maximum speed for the train. ETCS has been implemented due to the liberalisation of the national railway markets and economic integration of the EU requiring more and longer running trains.

European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) is the system of standards, conducted by the European Union Agency for Railways, for management and interoperation of signalling for railways by the European Union. It aims to enhance the ability of rail lines from countries across the EU to work with each other without any restrictions, through the use of standardised signalling, train control and command systems.

A Moving block (MB) is a signalling block system where the signal blocks are defined in real time by computers as safe zones around each train. CBTC or Transmission Based Signalling is used to provide the train speed and location of the train, allowing the safety distance to be adjusted on speed and real-time location instead of updates. Compared to Fixed block signalling this allows for less wasted space increasing the frequency of the service whilst maintaining the same safety standard.

Positive Train Control (PTC) is a system of requirements for monitoring and controlling train movements. A centralised office system broadcasts speed requirements and movement authority to the trains computer which compares them with the trains data to ensure compliance. Switch positions are monitored and reported to both by wayside units. Safety is improved through two ways: warnings to drivers about speeds over the limit that is turned into an automatic enforced reduction in speed if the driver makes no change. The second is another forced speed reduction if a train approaches a work zone, a misaligned switch or another train.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is the use of electromagnetic fields to uniquely identify any object, animal or person. An antenna broadcasts a signal, which when picked up by a transponder (a tag), activates and transmits back data to a receiver which can perform programmed operations. Benefits for rail include improved customer service, arising from knowing where equipment is and providing tailored service, and reduced operating costs obtained through better utilisation of equipment, reduction of mistakes and automation.

The Railway Integrated Measuring and Monitoring System (RIMMS) is a system aiming to provide innovative tools and techniques for capturing information on the current status of assets, in a non-intrusive and fully integrated manner. It is a part of Shift2Rail, a European technology, research and development collaboration programme and it mainly focuses on asset status data collection in conjunction with other technical demonstrations from it’s IP3.

A Rolling Stock Company (ROSCO) is a company that owns locomotives, coaches and freight wagons, which they then lease to train and freight operating companies due to the requirement of the latter’s wish to operate. ROSCO’s generally tend to replace old vehicles and perform heavy maintenance and overhauling on current ones.

Road Rail Vehicle (RRV) is any vehicle that is able to operate both on road and on rail tracks. They are usually converted road vehicles provided with additional flanged steel wheels to allow movement on rails. Their main use is for driving to a worksite where rail maintenance is required during engineering possessions of the line (closed to normal traffic), thus allowing avoidance of situations where the worksite is almost inaccessible due to distance from the nearest road.

System Control And Data Acquisition (SCADA) refers to a category of software application program allowing organisations to gather and process data in real time, record events, control industrial processes remotely and interact with an array of devices through human-machine interference. The main use in railway is integrating an array of subsystems such as CCTV, automated fare collection and screen door management. Seamlessly coordinated interactions allow control room staff to perform their duties quick, safely and effectively.

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