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25 May 2005

  • SEPTA's Subway-Surface Trolley Line enters Revenue Service today using Bombardier's CityFlo 450 CBTC

Congratulations to Bombardier and SEPTA's John LaForce to bringing this latest CBTC system into revenue service. More details can be found under "SEPTA" in TSD's  CBTC Project's page  

26 April 2005

  • Canarsie Line Revenue Service Delayed One Year

We recently received an official update from NYCT which now shows the CBTC system for New York's Pilot Line has been delayed nearly one year. Details can be found atfor NYCT.

  • Alaska Railroad Gets New US&S PTC System

We recently received an excellent presentation from US&S describing its latest Positive Train Control (CBTC) system for the Alaska Railroad. It can be found near the top of TSD's papers section

Alcatel to equip Shanghai with RF-CBTC

We received news from Alcatel that it will be installing its Seltrac RF-CBTC technology on Shanghai's new Line 8. The 20 million Euro project is scheduled to take 3 years. Details at CBTC Project's page at the end of the Asia column.

  • International Standards for Transit

Tom McGean, founder of the IEEE's Rail Transit Vehicle Interface Standards Committee recently provided us with a copy of an excellent presentation he gave on the impact of International standards potentially affecting the US Rail Transit Industry.  It too can be found near the top of TSD's papers section.

19 March 2005

  • New FRA Standard for Development and Use of Processor-Based Signal and Train Control Systems

Finally, after many years of waiting it's now out. TSD posted a copy in its papers section or you can download it from the FRA's website. This New Rule is something all train control suppliers for US railroads and US railroads need to know about and comply with. Lots and lots of tiny print, unfortunately. 

  • VAL System Description

While TSD hesitates to call the VAL system a true CBTC system it does come close and a recently received paper provides and excellent description of the first VAL system developed for Lille France. It is in TSD's papers section and makes for good reading if you have the time. 

07 March 2005

  • The Life and Times of Positive Train Control

We recently posted an interesting presentation to the National Transportation Safety Board by Ron Lindsey of Communications Architecture which those following PTC (CBTC for railroads) may find interesting. 

23 February 2005

  • Discussion Forum Temporarily Offline

TSD regrets having to temporarily disable our Discussion Forum  because of a security issue associated with the PHP programming language used to develop it. We expect to have this issue resolved in the next few weeks.

  • Lausane Metro Brochure Posted

We just posted a new Alstom Brochure that includes a discussion of its URBALIS 300 system that was used on this new rubber tired driverless CBTC. You can find it in the CBTC Projects Page

07 February 2005

    MAY, 2005, Washington DC

For those interested in CBTC, this is the bi-annual conference to attend. Check this Railway Age CBTC Conference link for periodic updates. 

  • Budapest to get Siemens Meteor CBTC

We don't have many details yet but as we do we will update our CBTC Projects Page 

NYCT's Canarsie CBTC Delayed

There's been a delay of several months in cutting over Canarsie's CBTC. We hope to receive another update from NYCT soon. When it is received it will be posted on TSD's CBTC Projects Page

  • Alaska Railroad to Get Vital US&S PTC

We expect to be receive a detailed paper on this vital Positive Train Control System from US&S on this in the new next few weeks. When we do, it will be posted in TSD's Paper section

  • CBTC Radios Which Way to go? What to Do?

Near the top of TSD's Papers section is the final draft of an article published in Railway Age 2005 Communications and Signaling Buyer's Guide. The article chronicles the last 10 years of CBTC radios. You may purchase the 2005 C&S Buyer's Guide directly from Railway Age for $14.

13 September 2004

    We stand corrected (See June 1, 2004). Click here to learn the difference between these two systems and here for a brochure on URBALIS operating in Singapore.
  • PTC Costs Versus Benefits 
    We just posted in TSD's paper section a copy of a 2004 report prepared for the US Federal Railway Administration. It looks in detail at the economic business case benefits of Positive Train Control. This time things are looking more positive.  Comments?
  • Alcatel's IEEE 802.11 CBTC Enters Revenue Service

Perhaps the most significant news is that Bombardier's Las Vegas Monorail finally went into service after many months of delay. This is now  the world's first CBTC based upon readily available commercial off the shelf data radios. Details on all these projects and more are available in TSD's CBTC Project Page. (Look for the colored "New" and "Updated" flags.

23 June 2004

  • Papers Section Updated

We recently posted two new papers/presentations in our papers section that may be of interest. One is by Vic Grappone describing a novel broken rail detection system. The other is an Alcatel update by Ed Kuun describing its wireless CBTC technology that is based upon open 802.11 WiFi standards. 

15 June 2004

  • Is Alstom's Rochester signal plant "...just fading away"?

Recently, we've heard that the main Rochester facility of the signal firm formerly known as General Railway Signal is now a shell of its former self. GRS was purchased by Alstom in 1998 but the number of employees now at Rochester may now be down by 2/3. 

Over the last decade it seems most US development in transit CBTC technology are international firms like Alcatel, Siemens, and Alstom. Combined with Rochester's quality control problems making  vital relays this may be signaling the beginning of end of a facility that for nearly a century supplied half of all US signal equipment. 

01 June 2004 

  • What's in a CBTC name?  Plenty! 

It sometimes seems signal suppliers are playing "Where's Waldo" with their customers. Not only do the company names change every few years some even rename their products, too.

Bombardier (formerly ABB Damler Benz, formerly Adtranz, formerly AEG Westinghouse, formerly the Transportation division of Westinghouse in Pittsburgh) recently renamed its 10 year old flagship Flexiblok to "CITYFLO* 650"

ATLAS, Alstom's first CBTC transit product, now appears to be something completely different and only marketed in Europe. For a few years Alstom's CBTC product was called "URBALIS 300." But now, URBALIS 300 has apparently been renamed: "MASTRIA 300."  [See Sept 13, 2004]

To help keep things straight, TSD often updates its Signal Score Card. We greatly appreciate your many contributions and if you find something new that is out of date or needs correcting please let us know.

02 March 2004

  • RATP issues 3 CBTC Contracts to upgrade 4 Lines   

According to a 24 February 2004 news item in International Railway Journal RATP recently awarded three new CBTC Contracts totaling 95 million Euros to help procure standardized CBTC equipment on four of its subway lines. TSD's link to this IRJ item and any future updates to this apparently significant RATP program are available at TSD's CBTC Projects Page (under RATP).

  • NYCT Seeks Replacement CBTC Follower

Responses are due by the end of March 2004 to NYCT's new Request For Information seeking a replacement for Alstom. The link to download this RFI pdf document is located at TSD's CBTC Projects Page page (under "Canarsie Line"). The RFI makes for interesting reading.

  • NYCT Issues Canarsie Line Update

We recently received an update on NYCT's Pilot CBTC Project. The link to view this update is located in TSD's CBTC Projects Page page (under "Canarsie Line").

  • Technical Newsletter keeps Improving

There are few good sources for the latest in technical information on advanced train control systems but Alcatel's TASbits is among the best we have found so far. If you know of others, please let us know. A link to back issues can be found in the "Alcatel" column in TSD's Train Control Suppliers Table. An especially interesting article on using IEEE 802.11 safely with CBTC systems can be found near the top of TSD's Technical Papers.   

06 February 2004

  • Kansas City to host courses in Railway Signaling - April 26-30, 2004

Courses in traditional Railway Signaling and advanced Communications Based Train Control Courses will be given this year in Kansas City on April 26-30, 2004. Enrollment is limited but substantial discounts are available. Click here to learn more and what previous course attendees thought of these courses.

04 December 2003

  • NYCT's Quest for Interoperability:  Is it now an Unreachable Goal?

Ten years ago many had hoped NYC Transit (because of its size) would be able to motivate the signal industry to develop new interoperability standards for Communications Based Train Control. In fact, successful CBTC tests in 1999 demonstrated that all three shortlisted CBTC firms could use the same IP-based radio with clean, well defined interfaces. Alas, today, NYCT's key interoperability requirements appear to have evaporated as NYCT has allowed key train-to-wayside "air gap" interfaces to be closed and proprietary. Privately, many signal experts now confide to TSD that NYCT appears to be heading up a proprietary CBTC creek rather than down an open, interoperable four track main.  

Perhaps because it could see no clear path to make a reasonable profit one of NYCT's two CBTC followers has dropped out. The remaining follower plans simply to compete by purchasing proprietary CBTC subsystems from its direct competitor -- based apparently upon unpublished prices and undisclosed terms. Since true competition on future CBTC procurements at NYCT now appear to be more illusion than reality, TSD felt it appropriate to remove the two "NYCT CBTC interoperability" columns from its long-standing CBTC Supplier Table. Additional discussion and comments can be found in TSD's Discussion Forum under Train Control.  

21 October 2003

  • Did you install your Microsoft Security Patch today?

Like "Jumbo Shrimp" the term Microsoft Security is an oxymoron. Despite major efforts by Microsoft to mitigate its massive security failures this year has been its worst as a Tsunami of patches flow almost daily from Redland. Combined with Microsoft's increasingly onerous licensing requirements, cash-poor governments are discovering more secure and less costly alternatives. Already cities, states, and entire countries are mandating alternatives such as Linux, Mozilla & OpenOffice Even Wind River, the Microsoft of Embedded Real Time Operating Systems, was forced to embrace Linux to survive. IBM also believes Linux is unstoppable

The transportation industry must have reliable, secure operating systems with long-term product support. But train control procurements that mandate the "latest version of Microsoft's Operating System" often cannot be placed in service before Microsoft announces it has terminated support. But Microsoft OS upgrades have new security and worse compatibility problems with existing software and hardware. If you're looking for a better long term solution or a way out, consider Living Without Microsoft.  

03 October 2003 

  • Alcatel Wins $650 Million (Canadian) Jubilee & Northern Line CBTC Upgrades

Yesterday, Alcatel and London Underground's Tube Lines jointly announced Alcatel was given the go ahead to re-signal these two major LUL lines (plus an option for Piccadilly) with Alcatel's "S40" Seltrac Communications Based Train Control technology. For more information and a link to Alcatel's press release see TSD's  CBTC Project page. For comments or question TSD.ORG also has a new discussion thread on this new CBTC project. 

Tube Lines is responsible for the maintenance and upgrade of London Underground's Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly Lines. It is a consortium comprised of the firms Amey, Bechtel and Jarvis.  

30 September 2003 

  • We just received NYCT's September 20, 2003 Canarsie Project Update. See NYCT in TSD's CBTC Projects section
  • There is still space for those interested in attending either or both GWU's Elements of Railway Signaling and CBTC courses near Chicago's O'Hare airport on October 27-31, 2003 Click here for more information. 

22 September 2003 

  • And Then There were Two
    Alstom Withdraws from NYCT's Canarsie Line CBTC Project

We hear with reasonable confidence Alstom has decided to end its "follower" participation on NYCT's Canarsie Line Pilot CBTC program currently led by Siemens. NYCT now may seek a replacement but we have no official news yet. 

Likely Alstom's financial woes had something to do with its decision. On September 17, the European Commission announced the opening of an in-depth inquiry and decision in principle to prohibit France from providing Alstom with a long-term loan but a multi-billion dollar financial rescue package by creditor banks and the French government and apparently approved by the EU today may have avoided bankruptcy. 

Many wonder how others can effectively compete on future NYCT CBTC procurements if key train-to-wayside interfaces remain proprietary and which presumably must be purchased from the leader. Perhaps this was a factor in Alstom's decision to withdraw. See 02 July 2003 and 14 Nov 2002 commentary, below. A new discussion thread on TSD's CBTC Discussion Forum now provides opportunity for anyone to comment

20 July 2003

  • What a Difference a Decade Makes

Last month Alstom's first URBALIS 300 (a microwave waveguide-based)  RF-CBTC went in full revenue service operation in Singapore. Alstom now joins the small but growing "RF-CBTC In Revenue Service" club first populated by Bombardier (with its leaky-feeder based Flexiblok RF-CBTC system that went into operation at SFO three months prior. Curiously, there still appears to be no free space RF-CBTC systems in revenue operation yet, although many are in the pipeline. 

Two major free space RF-CBTC projects are NYC Transit and SF BART. But NYCT is not projecting revenue service on its Canarsie Pilot Line with its new Siemens Meteor RF-CBTC before mid-2004 and BART is now projecting that 1/3 of its 100-mile system may not be in revenue service operation with its GE AATC RF-CBTC before 2005. For more on these and other CBTC projects see TSD's Projects page. For more about CBTC technologies see TSD's Supplier Table. And for a full dose of train control consider one or both of these GWU courses.

It was only about a decade ago that a signal engineer at SF Muni first proposed using CBTC to increase the performance of San Francisco's Market Street subway. Today, Muni's automated inductive loop CBTC operates twice the number of trains/hr hour that Muni could do previously with its fixed-block system. And while 40-48 trains/hour at Muni today is normal fare, its headways sometimes dip below  60 seconds (i.e.> 60 trains/hour).   

15 July 2003

  • SF BART CBTC Project Update

We just posted BART AATC Project Manager Jean-Luc Dupont's CBTC update given at the 5th International CBTC conference in May of 2003 in Washington, DC -- which arrived too late for the Conference CD. You can download his (4 MByte PPT) presentation by clicking here. Additional discussions on BART's AATC Project section and in TSD's Discussion Forum.    

02 July 2003

  • CBTC "Air Gap"  Interfaces - An Open & Closed Case 

    Two major CBTC standards efforts now appear to be heading down opposite tracks. The direction from Paris on Line 13 with Alcatel is the critical wireless (air gap) interfaces between vehicle and wayside CBTC equipment must be be open & interoperable. But with NYCT's May, 2003 announcement that its wired  interfaces will be open on its Canarsie Line with Siemens it follows NYCT's wireless interfaces will not. This decision appears to undermine NYCT's quest for Interoperability and desire not to be tethered to a single CBTC supplier.  

For more on NYCT's Gordian Knot, see also: 14 Nov 2002 and 3 June 2003 below. Additional information can be found in discussions under Train Control in TSD's new Discussion Forums. 

  • Euro-Interlocking Approves 34 Standards Documents

TSD recently received a number of copies of the June 2003 Euro-Interlocking Newsletter. We would be happy to share them with you while our supply lasts. Among other news in this issue are discussions of its standards documents for railway interlocking systems. The 29 railway and industry partners in this consortium now have standards covering RAMS, EMC, installation and commissioning, modification, documentation, environmental and more. Please Email Tom Sullivan if you would like a copy of this informative Newsletter. There is also a new Euro-Interlocking section in our Discussion Forum.

  • Windy City to host Courses in Train Control 

    The George Washington University's Center For Professional Development popular short course CWEG-117 "Communications Based Train Control" and CWEG-809 "Elements of Railway Signaling" are now scheduled to be given together in Chicago the last week of October, 2003. Enrollment is limited. For additional information click here. 

  • GE Signaling to Reduce Worldwide Workforce 11%

"With more than 100 global competitors," GETS - Global Signaling's Jeff Caywood reports it "Can no longer remain competitive in the printed wire-assemblies and circuit board manufacturing industries." 100 jobs at GE's Grain Valley & Warrensburg, MO plants are being eliminated which is part of a worldwide workforce reduction of 11%.   

27 May 2003

  • Alcatel recently announced it won two new RF-CBTC contracts in Asia. In its announcement on its Seoul win (with partner Samsung SDS), Alcatel  stressed it is using a data communications system architecture based upon open standards including TCP/IP. More on these wins are in CBTC's project page
  • The recent Railway Age/Parson CBTC Conference also had a number of interesting presentation stressing the benefits of deploying CBTC systems based upon open standards and commercial off the shelf products.  TSD's paper on "Open Architecture Train Control" was recently posted in TSD's  Papers section.
  • TSD's Discussion Forums include additional details and discussion and the opportunity to post comments and questions on these and related developments. 

29 April 2003

  • Bombardier announced today it won a contract in Taiwan to install its Flexiblok train control system on a new automated people mover for Taipei.  For more information see www.tsd.org/cbtc/projects

21 April 2003

  •  NYCT Canarsie Line CBTC 21 April 2003 Update received by NYCT Geoff Hubbs
  •  The most recent activities regarding CBTC technical issues can be found in TSD's Discussion Forums 

21 MAR 2003

        The "RF Challenge" for CBTC

Increasingly, in the US it seems, Radio Frequency wireless communications is becoming problematic for Communications Based Train Control systems. Problems are multi-faceted and especially acute for end-users who have long-term needs and expectations. 

To address the high costs of first-generation low-volume proprietary RF data radios some are now turning to next generation high-volume/low-cost radios that use packet switching and IP that conform to new, open IEEE 802.11 wireless standards (See also: 03 June 2003, below). But others are now beginning to question whether spread spectrum modulation in FCC unlicensed ISM bands is really a viable long-term solution. Some advocate transit properties petition FCC for clear frequencies but that may take years with no guarantee of success. 

So what should a transit property considering CBTC now do? Is inductive loop a more viable solution than we once thought or does it still have too many liabilities? What about leaky coax? Are newly emerging ITS DSRC radios or mobile routers from Cisco potential solutions? To help answer these questions experts and experienced CBTC end-users come together on June 11, 2003 in San Jose, CA at APTA's Rail Transit conference session: "CBTC Which Way to Go: Radio Frequency or Inductive Loop?"  If you can't make it, your questions and comments are welcome at TSD's Train Control Discussion Forum. (Look under "CBTC Data Communications.") We'll try to pose any relevant questions in this Forum to our experts and post their replies after the conference. Here's your chance so don't be shy.

5th International CBTC Conference & CBTC Course:  6-9 May 2003, Washington, DC

For 10 years the world's largest international conference dedicated exclusively to Communications Based Train Control has been held in Washington, DC. As in previous years it immediately follows the two-day CBTC course CWEG 117 held at The George Washington University in DC. Here are student reviews of this course which is described here in greater detail. For conference information or to register click here

27 FEB 2003

        TSD's Discussion Forum Now Operational

In the mid- 90's TSD operated a simple email discussion list called "The CBTC Mailing List." Hundreds of people who were interested in Communications Based Train Control worldwide joined this mailing list. Today, TSD is pleased to announce its greatly improved Discussion Form. You can see what's here by simply clicking on the above links or from TSD's Home page. We have been beta testing this open source software Forum/BBS product (known as "phpBB") on our servers for the last two weeks and it has proven to be very stable although we need to make some text changes and improvements to the Registration area, for example. 

Please look around and feel free to participate in these discussions by Registering. If there is a topic of interest we are not yet covering please let us know. For those who signed up to TSD's earlier CBTC Mailing List we are now slowly going back and adding our previous members to our new Discussion Forum. However, you don't need to wait -- simply rejoin the TSD Discussion Forum now to gain immediate access. 

Welcome to the Forum!

10 FEB 2003 

       Course in Railway Signaling on March 31, 2003 in Washington, DC

Robert Anderson, well-known signal industry expert is now teaching the popular George Washington University Course  Elements of Railway Signaling. Click here to learn more about Mr. Anderson and click here to learn more about other train control courses offered at GWU and by Bob's firm.

Teleconference:  "Safely Interoperating Control & Data Networks" - Feb 17, 2003

Increasingly, there is the need to transport safety-critical process control data and status information over traditional IT-style data networks (such as IP and the Internet). But can it be done safety and securely in a post 9/11 world? To help answer these and related question Jeremy Roberts Chief Engineer of  the LonMark Interoperability Association will be the featured speaker at Transit Standards Consortium's next teleconference on February 17th. 
For non-TSC members the cost of this 90-minute teleconference is US $125. For more information click here

"Are Vital Relays Failsafe?" 

TSD understands a major signal firm recently agreed to re-work nearly 2,000 vital vane relays it supplied to NYC Transit, over the next several months. This rework follows a major disruptive vital relay replacement and refurbishment program by two major signal suppliers who provided vital relays to the Washington, DC Metro. (See below, June 9, 2000). 

If increasingly actual data now indicate the signal industry is having trouble building safety-critical components to dependably fail safely, perhaps we should assess this risk by quantifying the MTBUF (Mean Time Between Unsafe Failures) of all safety-critical components in a safety critical system -- especially vital relays. 

How safe is safe enough? Perhaps nobody can answer that but if we cannot even quantify the risk associated with these fundamental safety components, how we can show that our next generation Positive Train Control and Communications Based Train Control systems are as safe or safer than what we now have? 

10 JAN 2003 - 

        Upcoming Wireless Security Teleconference

Transit Standards Consortium is hosting the first of a three-part teleconference series on Communications Security for Transit beginning Wednesday, January 22, 2003. The first teleconference speaker on "Security for Wireless Applications in Transit" is Mr. Stuart J. Kerry, Chair of the explosively popular IEEE 802.11 Wireless Local Area Networking Group (also known as WiFi). 

Teleconferences are $125 each or all three for $300. Click here for more info or to register.


18 DEC 2002 

SEPTA's John LaForce recently provided us with an update of its RF-CBTC project for its Subway Surface Trolley Line. It appears things are going pretty much on schedule.

09 DEC 2002 - Updates

5th International CBTC Conference - May 7-8, 2003 

We just updated our CBTC Conference section to include this meeting which occurs every two years in Washington, DC. Note that this conference immediately follows the GWU Course in CWEG 117 "Communications Based Train Control" that will be given on May 5-6, 2003. TSD is working with GWU to see if a discount is possible.

Inductive Loop Vs. RF Communications for CBTC?

The June APTA rail conference will include a moderated discussion on June 11, 2003 describing by end-users and suppliers alike the strengths and weaknesses of Inductive Loop versus Radio Frequency CBTC. This should be an interesting topic. 

Open Architecture Train Control

You may have noticed this new link on SD home page. OATC extends existing IEEE and other standards to help deploy a next generation of Network-based Based Train Control. It's just getting off the ground. 

14 NOV 2002 - Closed Architecture Train Control ?

Increasingly, NYCT's Canarsie Line CBTC project seems to be heading down a closed track. Until recently it appeared at least one of the two Canarsie Line Followers planned to build an RF Data Communications System that was interoperable with the Leader's. Now, this may no longer be the case. Even the leader's RF-ID tag interface is proprietary. With so many proprietary interfaces, it seems no one can answer the question: How will New York competitively procure future CBTC systems for its mostly interoperable 1,000 km subway network? 

Because it's becoming clear that Form, Fit and Function interchangeability may be necessary before a standard CBTC can emerge, attention now may be turning towards RATP's Line 13. As open interfaces seem to be necessary just for interoperability we updated our Supplier Table to more clearly indicate where some of these critical interfaces may lie and how (or if) a supplier's CBTC product conforms to any open standards. 

7 OCT 2002 - NYCT Canarsie Line CBTC Update

We just posted an update on this project from NYCT's Geoff Hubbs

16 JULY 2002 - IEEE 1473-L to IEEE 1473-T Gateway Page

For those interested in train networks and networking using IEEE-1473-L (LonWorks) and IEEE-1473-T (TCN) we recently added this new LonWorks to TCN Gateway information resource page. Also, in TSD's Papers section are several related presentations given recently at the June 2002 APTA rail conference. 

01 JULY 2002 - California authorizes SF BART to operate in limited RF-CBTC Mode

We updated our link on the  SF BART CBTC project to reflect this historic event and what likely comes next. 

03 JUNE 2002  - The Case for Open Standards for RF-CBTC

Bombardier is now installing proprietary Andrew data radios at SEPTA and GE is installing proprietary data radios at BART. One of the two NYCT Canarsie Line CBTC followers (perhaps, wisely) has chosen simply to purchase the leader's radio rather than develop an interoperable radio. Why is this happening? Is interoperability for RF-CBTC becoming problematic? A key problem is the tiny market for these very expensive radios. The problem may become even more acute in a few years as these radios move towards obsolescence with no apparent alternate sources nor upgrade path. This is a fine kettle of fish.  

Contrast these three proprietary RF-CBTC radios costing tens of thousands of dollars apiece with newer inexpensive IEEE 802.11 data radios. These new standard radios operate in same FCC 2.4 GHz ISM band. Data radios based upon  IEEE 802.11b are interoperable and inexpensive because they conform not just to an industry standard but an open standard. One consequence is that hundreds of commodity IEEE 802.11b radios can be purchased for the same price as one proprietary RF-CBTC radio. Further, prices for 802.11b radios continue to plummet as even higher performance 802.11a radios (operating at 5 GHz using OFDM) appeared this spring. Before the end of year 2002 "dual-mode" 802.11.a-b radios are expected to provide a migration to the higher performance 802.11a standard -- much like IEEE  802.3u (the standard for wired 100BaseT Ethernet) permits seamless upgrades to 100 Mbps from the older 10 Mbps Ethernet (10BaseT a.k.a. IEEE 802.3). 

Conforming to open communications standards clearly provide significant benefits to everyone and thus it should not be surprising that a train control firm owned by a communications-based giant, Alcatel, announced several months ago that it would be the first to offer an RF-CBTC based upon open IEEE wireless standards. (See: Supplier Table.) Are others far behind? To learn more consider this short George Washington University course Advanced Communications Based Train Control given on November 7-8, 2002. A prequel Communications Based Train Control is also being offered on November 5-6, 2002. 

14 MAY 02 - New Summaries for CBTC Projects and IEEE-1473-L train networks 

  • Railway Age's managing editor Bill Vantuono recently published an excellent overview article in the current issue. New Tech Train Control Takes Off Consider it required reading for anyone interested in CBTC.
  • Visitors to our new IEEE-1473-L "FAQ" page may be surprised to discover how quickly this 1999 rail vehicle and train network standard is being adopted worldwide. It's hard to keep everything current so if we did not list your firm's relevant product or service or have any suggested improvements, please let us know.


09 DEC 01 - FCC Certification for RF CBTC Radios - What's Real

  • Added a "FCC Certification" column to the Radio Networks table for FCC Radio Licensing Information. This  FCC Office of Engineering and Technology web site is a great way to learn more about real CBTC radios (as opposed to those still under development.) If your firm manufactures or resells a radio that is actually used or potentially useful for CBTC or PTC applications and has received FCC Certification, please let us know what its Grantee Code and Equipment Product Code is so we can add it to this table.
  • Updated, corrected CBTC Consultant List
  • Added new CBTC and Advanced CBTC Course dates at The George Washington University.

28 SEP 01

  • Railway Age reports that RailWorks, one of the JV partners on the CBTC Canarsie Line project with Siemens and US&S, filed for Chapter 11 on 21 Sep 01.
  • Posted new official updates by NYCT and SEPTA on their CBTC projects

27 Sept 2001


  • CBTC Product Manager Jeff Baker provided TSD with new web links. Let's hope GE's webmasters don't change them for awhile!   

Something old, something new in CBTC Papers...

We just upgraded our papers section and encourage others with potentially relevant papers, presentations, and links to contact us for possible inclusion.

There's a great new presentation from BART (for those interested in safety certification of software). We also "re-posted" two older NYCT papers describing in detail NYCT's CBTC worldwide findings and why it decided to migrate to CBTC technology. (Look for the temporary colored  flags.)

TSD Rant: Our links to other  web sites continue to drift but we do our best to keep up. Clue to webmasters everywhere: We can't imagine a better way to undermine the value of your site than to change your internal links frequently. As hard as it is to imagine, most of your web visitors don't enter through your top front door. The best searcher in the word (Google) takes about 30 days to refresh everything so changing your important links more often guarantees they won't be found by the very people you most want to reach... new customers!

14 Sept 2001 - Are Monolithic Control Centers Appropriate in a "Post September 11" World?

We continue to question the wisdom of controlling large transportation networks from single large monolithic control centers. Currently, NYCT controls its massive subway system - the longest in the world - from a distributed network of master towers. But NYCT just finished constructing its new Rail Control Center building in midtown Manhattan. From a column-less control room 1.5 times the size of an American football field in its new RCC, NYCT intends not just to monitor but also control its entire 722 mile subway network -- and abandon its existing master tower architecture.

Clearly, NYCT's antiquated electro-mechanical equipment in its master towers should be upgraded. And centralized monitoring makes sense. But in light of recent and previously unthinkable events, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate the wisdom of putting all our control eggs into a single basket.

Modern control systems are now migrating away from highly centralized control architectures to  ones based more on intelligent distributed control (IDC) architectures. Interesting, in a sense, that NYCT had IDC all along.  

13 Sept 2001 - NYCT's Joint Venture CBTC Team - OK

We were relieved to learn most of the Siemens/MATRA joint venture that was based in the World Trade Center that was working on NYCT's massive Communications Based Train Control project escaped before the buildings collapsed. One Siemens employee we understand was killed.

10 Sept 2001 - General Electric's new Global Signaling Business

As detailed in TSD's Signal Supplier section (see also, 17 July 2000) the firm formerly known as Harmon Industries (which last year became part of GE Harris and then known as GE Harris Harmon) is now known as GETS-GS - "GE Transportation Systems - Global Signaling." Recently, Harmon's young and brief former head, Greg Herreman, was replaced by GE's Tom Hammoor who comes to GETS-GS from GE's jet engine group. But as is typically the case when mergers and buyouts like this occur, many senior staff of the smaller company (in this case Harmon) leave or retire. For Harmon these included Russell Taylor and Bob Heggstead. Others we hear have left as well.

While to the accountants such mergers and acquisitions make sense, near term negative effects are often quite disruptive and hard to measure. But we're finally beginning to see GE's signaling showing train control products and systems (formerly shown better on Harmon's and GE Harris' individual sites). GE and many others have a long way to go to enhance their on-line web information beyond that which we can see find in magazine ads. Often, it seems, the bigger the company the worse its web-based information.

Tip to Senior Signal Executives everywhere: Your firm's web pages can be more magazine ads. For a clue, take a hard look at Westinghouse Signals Australia's great web site and its extensive on-line signal catalog. If there's no meat people, will simply click onto another (your competitor's) site. Get it? Don't you want them to spend a lot of time learning more about you? Provide lots of links to detailed information about your firm!  If you've managed to stay with me this long perhaps you'd enjoy Web Pages That Suck. TSD even bought the book!

02 July 2001

Another Signal Company Name Change:

Westinghouse Signals to become Westinghouse Rail Systems Ltd.

Westinghouse Signals, owned by Invensys (as is Safetran Systems and many others) changed its name today. It seems like a very 00's thing to do: change your name and keep your customers confused. Business card printers must be getting rich these days!  

For those having trouble keeping up with who's who in the signal industry, we commiserate with you. We attempt to keep our TSD Signal Supplier table up to date. If you have any corrections, please let us know. 

At least the old Westinghouse Signals web link remained unchanged. We find it amazing how unaware most webmasters are of the consequences of changing their internal links. Commonly known as "link rot" it is apparently inconceivable to most that anyone would consider entering their sites from other than their home page. Hello? Ever hear of a search engine?  

Adtranz web site returns with a Bombardier Look and Feel

For a few weeks it seemed the Adtranz site was down. It's now back with a Bombardier name

The West Mifflin Adtranz folks are installing its Flexiblok Communications Based Train Control System at SFO and also at SEPTA and SEA-TAC but we've been unable to find any direct reference to it on Adtranz's earlier site nor Bombardier's new one.  A casual observer might wonder if Flexiblok part of Bombardier's long term plans. Does anyone know what's up?

04 March 2001

We hear that LIRR may not proceed this year as planned with its CBTC program


19 December 1999 - New York's Long Island Rail Road seeks CBTC advice 

In a solicitation available today LIRR is requesting information on how to incorporate CBTC technology and eventually completely eliminate its existing fixed block systems. LIRR is now nearing its specification development phase and seeks input from potential suppliers to help it develop a complete, formal specification. To receive a free copy of its initial requirements document go to: http://www.mnr.org/lirr/procurement/current.htm then scroll down to "RFI-CBTC-001".

15 December 2000 - Alcatel & Alstom to build Meteor-compatible CBTC systems for NYCT

After an unexpectedly long gestation, MTA NYC Transit today issued Notice of Award to both Alcatel and Alstom for each to develop new RF-CBTC systems. These new CBTC designs must be compatible with a design to be developed by Matra Transport specifically for NYCT. Matra's CBTC for NYCT will be similar in concept to "Meteor" the CBTC system Matra developed for the Paris Metro, which has its roots in an earlier Matra technology known as SACEM. 

Long expected, but also long overdue, these two "follower contracts" help pave the way for a new "Standard CBTC" for NYCT and perhaps the entire industry. One of the key differences between Matra's original Meteor for RATP and the CBTC specified by NYC Transit is the Digital Communications System. In the case of the existing RATP Meteor design operating in the Paris Metro, the two-way digital communications is via low frequency inductive loops laid between the running rails. (In this regard, Matra's Meteor design is similar to Siemens' LZB and Alcatel's Seltrac CBTC systems.)  But instead of near-field inductive loop technology, the new Meteor design for NYCT will use Direct Sequence Spread Spectrum transceivers in the 2400 MHz frequency range and integrated into a new overall RF-DCS architecture. We understand the new Matra wayside DCS for NYCT may be developed by Matra's parent, Siemens. 

One surprise to many late last year was the decision by Matra to develop its own RF-based DCS rather than use the DCS all three firms successfully demonstrated during the evaluation trials on the Culver line. We have understood for some time that one of the two followers will purchase Matra's new DCS. The other will develop its own DCS compatible with Matra's new DCS. As we receive more information we will put it in <tsd.org/cbtcprojects.htm>.

03 November 2000 - Will Alstom buy Ansaldo Signal? 

A recent article in the Financial Times hints strongly that French-based Alstom may be interested in purchasing or partnering with the signaling group of Ansaldo. Ansaldo blames recent losses (which amount to more than a third of its capital) on its subsidiary, Ansaldo Signal NV. Among other firms, Ansaldo owns US-based Union Switch & Signal.

The Financial Times reported Ansaldo will hold meetings this and next month to discuss its losses. Shareholders will also appoint a new board following the resignation of board president Luciano Cravorolo. Could part of Ansaldo Signal's woes be that like most signal firms, it makes precisely what its customers do not want: large, complex proprietary train control systems that are sold in low volume and (a priori) high cost which then must be  maintained for 25+ years. Hello?

Finmeccanica has indicated it does not plan to sell its Ansaldo Trasporti unit. Rather it intends to reach an alliance with a large partner as soon as possible. If this happens it may further reduce the number of signal companies competing world wide. And if history is a guide, this may mean that like General Railway Signal before it, Union Switch & Signal may be absorbed under Alstom's constantly expanding tent.

24 July 2000 -The Rights to Meteor 
There may be a question as to who owns the rights to portions of the Meteor CBTC. Installed at RATP by Matra, Meteor technology was selected by NYCT late in 1999 to form the core of its new interoperable CBTC. However, unlike the RATP design, Matra's Meteor design for NYCT will use an advanced and sophisticated  RF Radio and Digital Communications System (DCS) replacing the much simpler inductive loop design used in the original Meteor system. Near field inductive loop technology has been proven for decades in train control systems provided by Alcatel, Siemens, Matra and others. But next generation RF-CBTC systems do not have loop crossovers so other techniques must be used to locate trains and keep them safely separated. 

NYCT wants at least two followers to build Meteor-compatible systems with interoperability specified at key system interfaces. But if RATP's claims are true, some licensing arrangements may have to be agreed upon before NYCT (or at least its followers) can move forward with deployment of a pilot RF-CBTC on Canarsie. 

Most observers agree that the DCS is the highest project risk for an RF CBTC system and for this reason it  was the subject of six months of extensive testing and scrutiny during NYCT's Culver Line trials last year. But NYCT does not plan to use the only DCS successfully demonstrated at the Culver trials. (Recently, NYCT cited "commercial reasons" for this decision when proposal evaluations were made in 1999.) 

But times have changed. Since then, a second RF-CBTC and DCS is currently being being deployed at both SEPTA and SFO, and a third DCS (not previously available "ala carte") using radio ranging, is being deployed as part of an RF-CBTC at BART. Radio ranging theoretically eliminates the need for transponders to locate trains. 

Matra/Siemens included in its NYCT offer to develop a new DCS that will be integrated with spread spectrum radios tested at RATP. But development of this new architecture could be costly to Matra and adds risk to NYCT's Canarsie project. NYCT indicated previously that if agreements with its two invited followers are not completed by July, 2000 it plans to invite others (not initially shortlisted) to be CBTC followers. And if new suppliers are invited, NYCT may be in a position to re-think whether its DCS, bird in the bush, is still better than existing DCS designs it may now find it has, in hand. 

Many believe important benefits accrue not just to the operator but to everyone when when the DCS is independent of the train control, multi-sourced commercial-off-the-shelf products are used whenever possible and open, interoperable interfaces and standards are mandated.


09 June 2000 - More Relay Failures at WMATA
After receiving more than its fair share of failures, the Washington DC METRO (see 11 May) has another relay problem -- this time on its railcars. Early last month an unexpected door opening on a rush hour Red Line train was traced to a faulty vital relay. Subsequent inspections revealed nine other faulty relays on its railcars. 

31 May 2000 - CBTC Follower Deadline: July, 2000
TSD understands that while follower contract negotiations may be nearing closure, if final detailed agreements are not reached by July, 2000, NYCT plans to invite others as possible followers. NYCT is currently negotiating with the two other shortlisted firms Alcatel and Alstom, for these CBTC follower contracts. We believe one potential follower is currently proposing to use MATRA's DCS and the other is providing its own interoperable DCS." 

31 May 2000 - Siemens may complete NYCT's  ATS Project
As indicated below, a senior NYCT official now confirms that NYCT did issue a Notice of Default to Union Switch & Signal on NYCT's Automatic Train Supervision Project, S-32333. We now understand NYCT accepted in principle a joint proposal by Siemens and US&S to take over this contract. Under the new arrangement Siemens would provide the central office hardware, all software development, and project management. Likely it will take 2-3 months to develop a new contract to put this into effect.

26 May 2000 - Canarsie Line Grumblings
We continue to hear from many that NYC Transit's 2 invited followers for the Canarsie Line CBTC Project were less than pleased by NYCT's decision to accept Matra's alternate RF Data Communications System. During NYCT's CBTC evaluation trials on the Culver Line in 1999, the three shortlisted firms all successfully used the same RailPath DCS. But while NYCT apparently liked Matra's alternate DCS proposal its radio network was never tested at NYCT nor has it  operated as part of a complete RF CBTC system.

While a complicated process -- after nearly six months of negotiation -- neither firm has yet to come to final terms with NYCT as a follower. Were either or both to drop out, others not initially shortlisted may now be able invited to join in.  But these other follower firms had actual operating DCS's and at least one may have proven US technology superior to that proposed by Matra. Maybe, the Fat Lady has not yet sung. 

22 May 2000 - NYCT Automatic Train Supervision runs aground
We have been hearing from a number of sources now that NYC Transit recently issued a Notice of Default to Union Switch and Signal on its major Automatic Train Supervision Contract S-32333. Problems we suspect are related to the software development process that is largely the job of US&S's subcontractor, Syseca. Syseca was recently purchased by Harmon Industries. (Update: Harmon has since sold this group to Arinc) 

11 May 2000 - Unsafe Failsafe Relays?
We understand the US Federal Railroad Administration issued Safety Advisory 2000-1 addressing safety concerns involving the Model B2 relay manufactured by GRS between 1960 and 1985 and its potential to stick and remain in the energized position after power is removed from the coil. ALSTOM, which acquired GRS, estimates that worldwide, approximately 2,000,000 relays are affected.  

Similar unsafe failures with vital relays from two major US suppliers have plagued WMATA for some time requiring WMATA to reduce service and operate in a semi-manual mode. Some estimates place the "Mean Time Between Unsafe Failures" of a vital relay to be about 1,000,000 years. But empirical data may now suggest the actual number could be far lower. So much for the traditional mantra: "Don't worry, it's failsafe." 


26 August 1999 - Updating our 14 August 1999 note below:  We stand corrected. It is now our understanding that all three shortlisted suppliers were asked to leave their equipment in place at NYCT. Also, more information regarding the news of  Siemens' Transportation division being sold will be published in the Rail Systems Technology Newsletter that will hit desks on 8/30/99. 

14 August 1999 - We've been hearing from a number of sources that Alcatel was asked to leave its CBTC equipment in place after the completion of testing for NYCT. Might this suggest they are going to be the lead technology supplier for NYCT? The answer is due from NYCT in a few weeks.

02 May 1999 -  GE-HARRIS purchased Rail Safety Engineering PC

23 September 1998 - FBI arrests senior executives of major signal supplier

FBI agents recently entered the US executive offices of a major signal firm and whisked away two senior executives !

1 July 1998 - NYCT to announce three shortlisted firms for Canarsie CBTC
We can't keep biting our tongues any longer. Everybody is saying the same thing: NYCT has shortlisted Alcatel, Alsthom/GRS, and Matra/US&S. Proposers who didn't make the shortlist include Adtranz, Harmon, and Safetran. Safetran we understand withdrew itself from consideration and did not submit a price proposal. Official NYCT announcement is expected to be later this month.
19 June 1998 - Canarsie Line shortlist now down to four
There's been a lot of talk recently about NYC Transit's recent shortlisting for the Canarsie Line Procurement. We understand that the original list of six proposers is now down to four. A key consideration was the ability of each shortlisted firm to develop, and control the development, of software.
We believe we know which firms are still under consideration (for further shortlisting down to three) but we have been asked not to disclose this information just yet. However, if any of the firms who have been selected care to make their selection known, we'd be please to post it as a press release!
18 June 1998 - GRS:  In name, no more?
Over the years if you hadn't heard of the name GRS and General Railway Signal, you didn't know anything about signals. While GRS has seen better days, and was recently sold, we hear its new parent firm is now considering eliminating the name GRS and replacing it with something completely different. That seems unfortunate as name recognition in this industry as it is in many industries is very important.




Press Releases

TSD welcomes the opportunity to provide direct links to firms with recent press releases and other newsworthy items so please help us spread the news. To have a press release or other information considered for this section please send an email message to Tom Sullivan

4 August, 2000 Bombardier to purchase Adtranz

Bombardier Inc. signed a purchase agreement with DaimlerChrysler to acquire its subsidiary DaimlerChrysler Rail Systems GmbH (Adtranz), for $725 million US. Proceeds from the planned disposal of some of Adtranz’s businesses, namely Fixed installations and Signalling, currently in the process of being sold to others, would reduce this price.

Bombardier is a leading manufacturer of business jets, regional aircraft, rail transportation equipment and motorized recreational products. More than 90% of its revenues are generated outside Canada. 

 AP News Story  Bombardier Press Release  

17 July 2000 - GE Transportation System  Purchases Harmon Industries

Key excerpts from the Harmon Web Site on 17 July

General Electric Company and Harmon Industries, Inc. announced today that they have reached a definitive agreement for GE to acquire 100% of the stock of Harmon for $30 per share, payable in GE stock. The stock exchange is expected to be tax free to Harmon shareholders. The total value of the transaction including the assumption of debt is approximately $425 million. Harmon is a leading supplier of signal, inspection, train control and communications products, systems and services to freight and transit railroads, with sales of $304 million in 1999.

Upon completion of the transaction, Harmon will become part of GE Harris Railway Electronics, a joint venture between GE Transportation Systems (GETS) and Harris Corporation. John Krenicki, president & chief executive officer of GE Transportation Systems, said of the potential transaction, “Harmon has a wide range of railroad and transit signaling, wayside and control products and systems which greatly complement the GE-Harris product line and expands GE’s railroad signaling and communications offerings in the passenger and freight railroad industry. The combined company will offer tremendous communications technology and increased opportunities for productivity, service improvements and asset utilization for our customers around the world.”

This GE Harris Link answers some top level questions about this GE Harris purchase of Harmon.


 04 May 1999 Cypress Semiconductor Second Sources Echelon Neuron I.C.'s

Cypress Semiconductor Corporation (NYSE: CY) today announced an agreement under which Cypress will develop, market and sell Neuron Chips, which are microcontrollers that enable devices to be networked in transportation applications worldwide. For more information about this US rail communications standard see TSD's new Standards Section

Replacing Motorola which is going through hard times (so hard in fact that we heard Motorola may even get out of the semiconductor business) Echelon now is assured of two sources for its silicon. The other supplier is Toshiba. For more information see this link

20 Jan 1999 Adtranz purchased by DaimlerChrysler.

17 Nov 1998 - New LonMark Transportation Group Formed

The LonMark Interoperability Association today announced the establishment today of a new Transportation Group that will have an initial focus on Rail Transportation. Intended to compliment recent standards activities such as IEEE P-1473, this independent association has received strong initial support from major transit properties and suppliers using and specifying  systems based upon LonWorks Technology.

Date not given

TEA-21 is the major new Federal Department of Transportation funding act. For specific information on Research & Technology funding, click here.

02 Sept 1998
Kasten Chase Selected for all three New York City Transit Resignalling Demonstration Agreements

12 June 1998
Alcatel Transport Automation Announces Successful Radio Based Driverless Train Test

Date not given
GEC Alsthom Acquires SASIB Railway


July 2000


Union Switch and Signal


October 1999

Parsons Transportation Group

September, 1998

Union Switch and Signal

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