First milestone ERTMS CSS project: successful test with object controller

December 01, 2022

ProRail is implementing European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS): the international standard for digital railway safety. It is a single European signalling and speed control system that makes railways safer, more reliable, and more interoperable. This will increase capacity and simplify cross-border rail traffic. In 2030, ERTMS needs to be implemented on the busiest tracks in the Netherlands.

Thales is the contract partner for the new ERTMS Central Safety System (CSS) on the Dutch railway network, which is controlled and supervised by ProRail. This system for safe route and train control consists of hardware and software components, which will interact with the existing railway infrastructure.

A key element in the successful implementation of the CSS is the integration of the object controller DCA (Distributed Control Architecture) of Thales and the infrastructure of ProRail. To ensure the interfaces between the CSS and the railway infrastructure, Thales and ProRail aligned on the first pre-integration tests conducted at the Railcenter in Amersfoort.

For these tests, a brand-new version of the object controller DCA was shipped to the Railcenter. The object controllers were connected to real point machines, which are the electrical actuators to switch a railway point. The scope of the test covered correct execution of point switching commands from the Thales object controller to the point machines. Additionally, current and voltage measurements were taken under different conditions. The correct system behaviour in case of failures was also be checked and documented.

A joint test team of Thales’s product experts and ProRail ERTMS specialists were at the Railcenter to prepare and execute the test activities in close cooperation with specialist from the Railcenter. Thales and ProRail both have the ambition to collaborate in the benefit of the project. This joint pre-integration test is a good example.

This first joint pre-integration test in the ProRail ERTMS Integration Lab is an example of the collaboration between Thales and ProRail that is key for making the CSS project successful. Oscar Arias, manager ERTMS Central Systems ProRail
The successful test with the object controller, only six months after being awarded with the contract, is a boost for the ERTMS-CSS project and gives motivation to the whole team and stakeholders for the way forward. Joint tests will ongoing be applied in ERTMS-CSS. They are the quality gate to the next steps, as we then know that solutions are working and functionality is proven and agreed. Georg Koepfler, Programme Director ERTMS CSS Thales

What is a DCA Object Controller

DCA acts as a bridge between the digital world (the interlocking) and the analogue world (points and signals).

The DCA object controller receives digital commands from the interlocking, typically delivered via a fibre optic cable. When a command is received, the DCA controller switches an electric current to conduct a specific task – for example, to move a set of points or display a green signal aspect. There are no moving parts within the controller: current to the points and signals is switched via solid-state relays rather than electro-mechanical ones.

As well as allowing the interlocking to control field elements, the DCA controller monitors the status of each field element in real time and reports this to the interlocking – for example, which way the points are set, or which signal aspect is being displayed.

In common with all Thales solutions, DCA is “Cybersecured by Design.” This means that defence against cyberattacks is built-in to the solution.