Thales-led consortium to develop fiber-optic technology for network rail


London, United Kingdom (Urban Transport News): Network Rail Limited has awarded a contract to a consortium led by Thales Ground Transportation Systems Limited to develop and test fiber optic acoustic sensing (FOAS) technology that will support safety and performance improvements on railways.

“FOAS technology will be enriched with data fusion to enhance the ‘listening’ capabilities of optical fibre, of which there are already around 20,000 km running along UK railways. Implementation of this technology – effectively every Creating virtual microphones in the meter – has the potential to enhance remote status monitoring of assets and provide valuable data to improve train performance and reduce disruption for passengers,” said an official release issued by Thales.

The award of the contract follows a design competition launched in November 2020, led by Network Rail in collaboration with Dutch rail infrastructure operator ProRail, which funded more than 40 suppliers of various sizes with a 12-month results-focused Challenged to come up with proposals for testing. Amalgamated through FOAS, IoT sensors and smart CCTV cameras, intelligent data fusion and processing. Companies were required to address four areas of operational challenges on the railways:

  • Train movement and status reporting
  • rail and wheel defects
  • Level Crossing Safety Management
  • trespassing and tracking people along the track

With Thales’ successful bid, trial work – which includes delivering various parts of the technology to SMEs – will begin in autumn 2021, on Network Rail’s RIDC Melton test track and on the mainline railway from Melton Mowbray to Leicester.

The design competition also formed part of an existing agreement between Network Rail and ProRail to collaborate on research and development opportunities. The two companies signed a Memorandum of Understanding in March 2019, reflecting their commitment to work together and share expertise to solve the challenges faced by the Railways.

Huv Evans, Network Rail’s R&D Portfolio Program Manager, said:

This is a great example of the collaboration between Network Rail and ProRail to solve and develop problems that are common to both of us, and we look forward to working closely with the Thales-led consortium. RIDC Melton and its connected main line provide the right operating scenario for us to safely and efficiently test the technology and fully evaluate its potential.

“The collaboration between Network Rail and ProRail is already a success and will continue through the joint development of algorithms for various applications in the ProRail DataLab and in collaboration with Thales,” said Karel van Giles, ProRail Director of Innovation and New Technology.

Thales’ winning bid represents an efficient approach to innovation, using existing infrastructure to deliver new capabilities while avoiding installation costs.

David Palmer, VP Main Line Rail, Thales in the UK said:

Thales is excited to work with Network Rail and our partners on the research, development and testing of fiber optic acoustic sensing technology. The potential applications of this technology are vast, with many elements related to performance and safety in this specific project, from train movement to level-crossing safety management. The main objective is to allow Network Rail to evaluate how this technology can benefit their customers.

The data can also be a valuable feed into the Rail Data Marketplace (RDM) – recently announced by the government – ​​to provide a platform for sharing rail data across the industry and enable a step towards a data-driven railway of the future. . The RDM is expected to create new collaboration opportunities for developers, tech firms and the rail industry.

£350 million in research, development and innovation through its five-year control period until March 2024 to support Network Rail’s research and development (R&D) portfolio to improve efficiency and safety in the rail industry through new technology Expect to invest more than

Network Rail and ProRail signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to support the delivery of Network Rail’s £245m R&D portfolio by 2024, to jointly develop and migrate technologies to new operating environments over five years. provides opportunities. This is part of Network Rail’s plan to lower barriers to innovation by making it easier for partners to work with themselves.

The government announced £5m funding to kickstart the development of the Rail Data Marketplace in July 2021. The platform will be introduced next year.


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