Proposals from Thales and Alstom have been selected as part of an innovation partnership for next generation signal interlockings organised by French rail network owner SNCF Réseau.
The Argos program was launched in 2018 to develop new computer-controlled signal interlockings and has now announced three groups which will progress to the development phase. Along with Thales and Alstom, Hitachi Rail has also been selected.
The project aims to update old, existing interlocking boxes that are increasingly obsolete and in need of renewal with digital replacements.
The future interlocking boxes will be able to transmit information in real time, reducing failures and maintenance while improving traffic flows. Without the need for immediate relays, the physical footprint of the interlocking boxes will also be reduced, further reducing maintenance and installation costs.
“Our goal is to roll out an efficient, resilient, easily maintainable system that can be installed and tested with minimum impact on traffic,” said Anne-Sophie Naboulet-Larcher, technological strategy and contract award manager at SNCF Réseau.
In the Argos program, each participant will upgrade an existing installation and develop pre-series production interlockings. The first are scheduled for commissioning at the end of 2023.
The Thales proposal is working on the Lyon-Vienne corridor and has worked to reduce installation lead times by 30 per cent through new research and improving change management processes.
“We are proud that the first solution chosen by SNCF Réseau for developing its ‘high-performance network’ is that proposed by the Thales-ENGIE Solutions–Vossloh group for a new generation of computer-controlled interlockings making even greater use of digital technologies. It was 20 years ago that Thales began delivering computerised signalling systems and, over the years, it has built up a strong, trust-based relationship with SNCF Réseau, partnering it in the move towards converting the SNCF network to digital technologies,” said Yves Joannic, vice-president main line signalling, Thales.
The Alstom team has adapted the Smartlock interlocking technology for installation between Paris and Dijon. Reductions in total cost of ownership and deployment time have been part of the proposal.
“With railway systems becoming ever more complex, railway operators need a system that they can count on to guarantee the performance and availability of their system,” said Jean-Baptiste Eyméoud, president Alstom in France.