Ph.D. thesis proposes satellite navigation and mobile telephone network to improve safety of trains

April 23, 2010

Engineer Jon Mikel Rubina puts forward alternative economical telematics for the current railway system, with applications enabling monitoring and control of elements that make up rail infrastructure.

The current situation of the safety of trains leaves room for improvement. The technology used has high financial costs, both in its implementation and in maintenance, and it is necessary to reach a compromise between the cost of safety and the profitability of the operation. Moreover, when the system fails, there is no other alternative than to operate telephonically, with no possibility of seeing what is happening. Telecommunications engineer, Mr Jon Mikel Rubina, has tested an innovative system on the trains of Euskotren in the Basque Country, aiming to provide a cheap, efficient and versatile solution to the problem of rail safety. The idea is to use standard telecommunications technologies such as the mobile telephone network or location systems, in order to draw up a system of telematic monitoring and control that aids the operation of the trains. His PhD thesis, defended at the University of the Basque Country, is entitled New telematic methods for enhancing safety in railways operations.

Concretely, Mr Rubina opted for GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System technology), GPS and Galileo being examples of this, and rotating sensors to create a system that pinpoints the position of the train without needing to place markers on the track. He also made use of conventional mobile telephone data communication services (GPRS and UMTS) and WiFi networks, in order to interconnect all the elements of the railway network. Thus, he has used well-proven and widely used technologies as a basis to develop an innovative telematic system and, above all, one that is safer and more accessible than currently used ones.

The SAYO system

One of the aspects that most concerns rail safety is the control by the driver of his or her train and the surrounding conditions. Mr Rubina's telematic infrastructure facilitates real time information to the driver on the railway service, such as, for example, speed limit on certain stretches of line or any event happening on the lines that might affect the train. This is the Driver Information System, the data being gathered on an interface in the driver's cabin. The Driver Information System also incorporates an application that carries out the same functions as the so-called "black box" in aeroplanes.

Another solution provided by telematic infrastructure is the Embedded Electronic Library. This aids the driver, providing him or her with static information, such as the plan of the next station to arrive or a manual with concrete instructions to follow for each event or incident that the driver may meet.

The Driver Information System and the Embedded Electronic Library are incorporated in the Operation Aid System, the team of inventors of which Mr Rubina is part.

The BRAP system

Mr Rubina also participated in the invention of another system, known as Blocking through Radio-Assisted Positioning (BRAP), and also mentioned in his PhD thesis. In railway terminology, blocking is when a train has been guaranteed free transit on a particular stretch of the line, i.e. it is not going to meet any obstacle and crash into it. For the management of blockings it is necessary to know the location of each train and to be able to communicate with the drivers. The BRAP application undertakes this monitoring and control, but based on mobile telephone network and on GNSS. Thus, blocking is carried out by radio.
About the author

Jon Mikel Rubina Diez (Bilbao, 1982) is a Telecommunications Engineer. He drew up his PhD thesis under the direction of Gerardo Aranguren Aramendia of the Department of Electronics and Telecommunications at the Higher Technical School of Engineering in Bilbao. He is currently research engineer at the European Software Institute. In undertaking the thesis, he worked with Euskotren and Eusko Trenbide Sarea.

Elhuyar Fundazioa

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