Coded Track Systems for Train Detection
Submitting InstitutionPlymouth University
Unit of AssessmentElectrical and Electronic Engineering, Metallurgy and Materials
Summary Impact TypeTechnological
Research Subject Area(s)
Information and Computing Sciences: Computer Software, Data Format, Information Systems
Summary of the impact
This case study highlights the research carried out by Plymouth
researchers in developing a new product in coded railway signalling, the
EBI Track 400. Through this patented product, Bombardier Transportation UK
Ltd has become the world leader in coded track systems, currently making
profits in excess of $6 Million per annum through worldwide sales. The
innovative coding algorithms and enhanced system performance has improved
railway reliability, eliminated `false positive' danger alerts, and
achieved savings for train operators while improving the travelling
experience. It has also secured existing jobs and increased investment at
their Plymouth site.
This case study highlights the commercial application of research
undertaken by The Centre for Security, Communications and Networks
Research (CSCAN) at Plymouth University. CSCAN, comprising staff from the
School of Computing and Mathematics at Plymouth University, have expertise
in IT security, communication and network technology and are specialists
in the design of efficient linear error correcting codes. The team is led
by Prof. Martin Tomlinson (Professor 1982-to date) and includes Dr. Marcel
Adrian Ambroze (Lecturer 2003-to date), Dr. Mohammed Zaki Ahmed (Lecturer
2001-2008, Senior Lecturer 2008-2010, Associate Professor 2010-to date)
and Dr. Cen Jung Tjhai (Lecturer 2007-2010).
The research published its first results in 2005 and commercial
translation began with through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with
Bombardier Transportation UK, Ltd. that ran for two years between
2006-2008. The company started in Plymouth in 1959 as ML Engineering, and
manufactures signalling systems for trains. Bombardier Transportation
designs, manufacturers, and delivers rail control and signalling solutions
at its Plymouth site. The research continues with a direct synergy between
the development of the research and its commercial application.
The research undertaken focused on the development of the latest
generation track circuit unit for rail control safety systems. Error
correcting codes are specified by the number of information symbols and
the number of codeword symbols. An efficient code is one that has the
largest distance between codewords for a given number of information
symbols and codeword symbols, with the best known codes normally published
[R5]. The research carried out at Plymouth has developed new codes that
were proven to be better for communications systems than previously used
The research created a coded track system that was substantially more
advanced than existing coded railway signalling. The Plymouth team
designed a very specific new error correcting code that was suitable for
the unique noise and interference challenges of the railway signalling
channel. This new error correcting code provided a very robust solution
that was subsequently the basis of the EBI Track 400 product. Part of the
on-going challenge after the KTP was to prove the safety case for the new
train detection system. This is a highly complex and important process
before a new system such as this is adopted for use, since it is safety
critical and lives depend upon its effective and constant operation in the
field. Dr Ahmed provided subsequent support in verifying the safety case
for the EBI Track 400 that was highly acclaimed by Network Rail [I9].
References to the research
R1 Tjhai, C.; Tomlinson, M.; Ambroze, M.; Ahmed, M. (2005) Cyclotomic
idempotent-based binary cyclic codes Electronics Letters Volume: 41 ,
Issue: 6 DOI 10.1049/el:20057266
Electronics Letters embraces the entire field of modern electronics,
including electronic science and engineering, telecommunications,
optoelectronics and optical communication. It is widely recognised as
being the leading journal in its field for the rapid publication of short
international research papers at the cutting edge of electronics
technology and is highly cited. All articles are peer reviewed.
R2 Tjhai, C.; Tomlinson, M.; Grassl, M.; Horan, R.; Ahmed, M.; Ambroze,
M. (2006) New linear codes derived from binary cyclic codes of length 151
Communications, IEE Proceedings- Volume: 153 , Issue: 5 Page(s): 581 - 585
This journal covers the fundamental and generic research for a better
understanding of communication technologies to harness the signals for
better performing communication systems using various wired and/or
wireless media. All articles are per reviewed.
R3 Horan, R.; Tjhai, C.; Tomlinson, M.; Ambroze, M.; Ahmed, M.Idempotents
(2006) Mattson-Solomon polynomials and binary LDPC codes Communications,
IEE Proceedings- Volume: 153, Issue: Page(s): 256 - 262 DOI
R4 Tjhai, C.; Tomlinson, M (2007) Results on binary cyclic codes,
Electronics Letters Volume: 43 , Issue: 4 DOI 10.1049/el:20073898 Page(s):
234 - 235
R5 CJ Tjhai, Martin Tomlinson, Markus Grassl (2011) There is No Binary
[35,10,13] Code, 6094 -6096. In IEEE Transactions on Information Theory 57
M. Tomlinson, M. Jibril, C. Tjhai, S.V. Bezzateev, M. Grassl and M.Z.
Ahmed (2013) A generalised construction and improvements on nonbinary
codes from Goppa codes. IEEE Transactions on Information Theory.
Details of the impact
The research undertaken has impacted on the performance of Bombardier by
opening up new international markets. This has led to an investment in
their Plymouth site which exports some of the products. The innovative
coding algorithms and enhanced system performance has improved railway
reliability, eliminated `false positive' danger alerts, and so achieved
savings for train operators while improving the travelling experience.
The research has led to the EBITrack 400 being launched by Bombardier.
Officially launched at the InfraRail exhibition at the NEC in March 2008,
the system has enabled Bombardier to reinforce their market presence and
increase their market share. It has resulted in increased worldwide sales
of the system in international markets including European and Asian
markets, Australia and the USA. It has led to projected worldwide sales in
excess of $6m per annum (2,000 systems per annum) in international markets
including; the UK, Spain, The Netherlands, Russia, Latvia, India,
Australia and the USA, and has also triggered an increase in sales
enquiries for the product family of over 200% with a further 30% gained
due to recovery of markets recently lost to competitors.
The KTP project was awarded the `KTP Business Impact Award 2011',
presented at Innovate 2011 [I4,I5,I6,I7]. This award, funded by the
Technology Strategy Board, is awarded to the business that has benefited
most from its KTP project.
As Bombardier state:
"As a result of our successful collaboration with the University of
Plymouth through KTP, the joint team developed a cutting-edge product
that is innovative and marketable and has already secured a market lead
over its world-wide competitors" (Bombardier Transportation).
The EBITrack 400 offers significant reliability advantages over other
products on the market After seeing a presentation of the new EBITrack 400
coded track circuit system, Network Rail approached Bombardier to adopt
the system for use in the UK, which is unprecedented within the industry
and makes Bombardier the only UK company to have coded track circuit
technology being trialled by Network Rail.
"The EBI Track range embodies several significant design enhancements
over its predecessors, principally: A unique, exceptionally safe, coding
system and communication technique - a particular feature of EBI Track
400; and extremely high immunity against traction current interference.
The EBI Track 400 coded track circuit offers a significant improvement
in track circuit performance since: Dangerous failures caused by
traction current interference are practically impossible. The incidence
of nuisance failures is significantly reduced because of improved
ability to tolerate excessive traction current interference;" (The
Institution of Railway Signal Engineers)[I8].
At a more local level, the research has had a significant impact on the
Bombardier site in Plymouth. The new product and increased orders has
ensured the long term survival of the site, securing the jobs of 60 people
and retaining vital skills by ensuring that Bombardiers research, design,
development and manufacturing functions remain in the UK [I1,I2,I3]. The
knowledge embedded through this Partnership has also been vital to the
company's long term strategic direction and has enabled it to compete for
a larger range of future work and projects. The research has ensured that
Bombardier are now far ahead of their competitors and they have continued
to use this market advantage to grow and develop. All Research and
Development funding for the Plymouth site is generated from its product
sales, so it is vital to demonstrate long term viable product development
opportunities within the UK business to the multinational business. This
will have a significant impact upon future innovation and on-going job
security at the site.
In markets where export from the UK is not possible the technology is
manufactured under license in those countries, thus returning the funding
to the UK. It has created jobs in other countries including Russia and
Sweden. The intellectual property and codes that makes the system unique
are so critical and confidential that they are kept securely at the
Plymouth Bombardier site.
Sources to corroborate the impact
I1 Letter with the following facts, figures and information from
Bombardier Transportation UK, Ltd.
- New markets
- Number of units sold per annum
- Existing markets
- Statement or quote from industry
I2 Local News story
I3 Local News story
I4 INNOVATE Business Impact.
I5 National Rail News
I6 KTP Online
I7 Railway Industry Association News
I8 Institution of Railway Signal Engineers IRSE NEWS ISSUE 147, Pages
2-7, JULY/AUGUST 2009
I9 Rail Safety Case Report
Ahmed MZ (2009) Report on EBI Track 400 Safety