Fat Controller gets networked

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In an "unusually large investment", StateRail has poured $15.6 million into building a Rail Management Centre (RMC) responsible for monitoring the busy metropolitan rail system across greater Sydney. The three-month-old facility, located in the CBD, consolidates six previously disparate centres into the one office.

The RMC's focus is to monitor and manage the rail network in metropolitan Sydney, which consists of 2,080 kilometres of track linking 306 stations reaching from Bathurst to Bondi Junction, and to communicate to train guards and train drivers on the rail condition, from one central information system.

Part of the investment went into data networking technology from Nortel Networks, to improve the monitoring of CityRail's train services through a Train Location System (TLS).

RMC built the TLS software in-house within six months, as part of the investment. The TLS displays activities on the rail network on a massive wide-screen, made up of 36 plasma-screens networked together, via 9 PCs running 4 screens each. Individual 'describers' placed on trains send information back to the data network which updates the TLS. As a result, all the activities on the network are visible at a glance to RMC staff. Trains appear as a code number which changes colour progessively if the train is behind schedule.

Warwick Taylor, manager at the RMC, said, prior to the investment, "we were not getting the communications needed before. There might have been a major issue with the rail network, such as a storm putting trees on the tracks, and we may have missed a stop. But now this information can be conveyed to the people that need to know." Taylor added that it has also improved recovery times in cases of signal failure.

The RMC also uses a Passenger Information Paging System to SMS (short messaging service) or page train crews, in addition to a new paging system that allows the dissemination of information to field staff at all stations on the network.

The RMC's desktop products, intranet application and security alarms all run on Nortel Networks, which links up with StateRail's storage area network (SAN) supplied by Hewlett-Packard.

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