Spain solved these disadvantages with new technological solutions. We have also taken advantage of the expertise of Spanish companies in other sectors to adapt their solutions into the high-speed rail. One example is the company Indra. This company is well known worldwide because of its solutions to air traffic control systems. Of every five flights in the world, three are controlled by Indra air traffic control systems. For high- speed rail, Indra has developed a solution called “Da Vinci,” a system that integrates all relevant information into a unified platform and automates system structure of the system, so the operator can focus on traffic flow.
The system collects data on exact location of the trains at any moment, but also other kinds of information important to the functioning of the entire system: data from different types of detectors, electricity demands in different parts of the line, objects fallen along rail paths, etc.
The key of to this solution is that it has been able to totally integrate all these aspects that previously where were controlled by different systems. Another important device developed by Indra is on-board ASFA digital. This system enhances the quantity and efficiency of the driving controls. Its digital components greatly improve the equipment reliability. For the future, more accurate signaling systems will allow trains to go faster and this will demand automatically a continuation of the innovation of this solution to make it even more automatic and coordinated.
Signaling presents one of the greatest challenges for the future. On one side, it affects the speed that trains can reach; on the other, it affects the interoperability of high-speed rail across the entire European network. Since May 2006, Spain is the first country in Europe using Da Vinci. The benefits of it are long-term cost reduction, the highest level of safety, possibility of more trains per line, interoperability on railway networks and open market for signaling systems.
But to emphasize some other points crucial to the high speed it must be said that high-speed rail is not only a technology, a business or a mode of transportation. High-speed rail is a system. It should be understood by governments and institutions working for the development of high-speed rail that it is a system that:
- Is highly beneficial for society
- Needs intensive long-term investments on public infrastructure that promote public-private partnerships (PPPs)
- Needs promotion of international partnerships
- Needs to upgrade existing lines to complement the high-speed network
- Is a complex system
- Is not the same concept everywhere, and it must be adapted in each case, in each country
It should also be understood that communication during the implementation process is crucial; each high-speed project needs a specific communication strategy adapted to its different goals, and the job of good communication is as important as the one of the engineers.
Also, the supplier industry has its own responsibilities in the future success and development of high-speed rail. During UIC’s Highspeed Conference in Amsterdam, some interesting conclusions were mentioned as messages to be listened by the supply industry:
- Continue working on innovation
- Make high-speed rail the sustainable transport mode
- Optimize energy efficiency
- Promote world standards, reducing costs through standard components or sub-systems
Also important is:
- Interoperability onboard comfort
- Security issues: self-protected trains
- Development of new technologies
According to the latest forecasts, the high-speed network could reach a total length of 35,000 kilometers (22,000 miles) in the next 15 years. High-speed networks are planned in all parts of the world (e.g. China, Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Morocco), why not in the United States?
Pedro Fortea is the director of Mafex, the Spanish railway industry association.