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Crossing Railroads Safely

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Grade crossings must also operate reliably in remote areas

When a new grade crossing solution was being developed for John Holland, RCS used the Frauscher Advanced Counter FAdC and FSE protocol.

Track circuits have been, and still are, used for many railroad applications – and the same applies in Australia. Here solutions were created for grade crossings using solar-powered DC track circuits, for example. Later on, these were then further enhanced by overlaying with audio-frequency track circuits, before the first axle counter solutions were combined with these approaches. A range of innovative grade crossing solutions was therefore developed based on the track circuits. Certain challenges could however still not be met in a satisfactory manner, such as handling weak contacts between the wheel and rail electronics.

Experience is the way forward

Various concepts were developed in order to meet these requirements, but these proved to be less cost-effective. John Holland therefore defined criteria for developing further approaches: high efficiency and reduced costs were some of the key elements. Flexibility also had to be guaranteed to enable both centralized and decentralized architectures to be implemented. It also had to be possible to integrate additional trigger points, not only via cable but also via radio connections, without having to change the set-up of the actual grade crossing control system.

Track more with less

The FSE protocol supports the RCS grade crossing solution.

  • Less complex system
  • Financial savings due to smaller hardware outlay
  • Specific programming steps in the control unit

When components become solutions

The system integrator Rail Control Systems Australia (RCS) addressed these requirements when developing a corresponding grade crossing solution. After testing various options, RCS decided to integrate the Frauscher Advanced Counter FAdC into the system, as the features of this axle counter fully met John Holland's criteria. After all, its software interface was to be the key to implementing a cost-effective and efficient   solution. The simple integration and possibilities to implement innovative system architectures provided the project with further benefits.

The grade crossing solution developed by RCS meets the criteria of CENELEC SIL 4. John Holland decided to test the system further. In October 2016, RCS and Frauscher were therefore given the opportunity to install a test system at Bathurst within the New South Wales Country Regional Network (CRN). John Holland looks after this network on behalf of the New South Wales government department Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW).

Software interfaces save money

With the grade crossing solution installed in the test system, a CENELEC SIL 4 approved HIMA F35 programmable logic controller (PLC) is deployed. Communication between the axle counter and the PLC is achieved via the Frauscher Safe Ethernet FSE software protocol.

“Using this protocol not only reduces the complexity of the system, but also provides many financial savings, as less wiring and hardware is needed,” says Stewart Rendell from John Holland. The expert explains the benefits in more detail: “Besides the safety-relevant clear/occupied status, this also allows the transfer of directional and speed information or diagnostic data to the PLC. In order to carry out minor diagnostic work, this data can be accessed via an on-site PC. If a more detailed analysis is needed, the Frauscher Diagnostic System FDS can also be accessed remotely. Furthermore, the FSE protocol also allows specific programming to be implemented in the HIMA control system in order to be able to take so-called hi-rail vehicles into consideration. These are placed onto the track or removed from the track in the vicinity of grade crossings. This special programming ensures that this process does not produce an error message in the axle counter.”

Setting standards

The series of tests carried out at the trial installation proved to be successful. The solution created on the basis of the FAdC with FSE interface has the potential to set new standards for grade crossing applications in Australia. Combining the rail-specific software protocol and axle counting software interface makes it possible to easily establish communication with the HIMA control system and easily integrate other trigger points via WiFi. The same protocol can be used here without the need for any additional wiring or changes to the architecture.

In addition to this, the FAdC offers two intelligent functions to handle faults and unexpected impacts. These functions are freely available, at no additional cost. Supervisor Track Sections STS guarantee that a grade crossing can continue to be operated safely in the event of a permanent fault with the track section. The Counting Head Control CHC allows damping caused by non-train related metal objects to be suppressed. These functions thereby support the system's availability and at the same time minimize the need for resets, which is especially beneficial in remote areas.

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