The Danish re-signalling programme is the largest Europe has ever seen.
The €3.2bn programme, which commenced in 2009, will see the migration of the entire Danish mainline network to ERTMS Level 2 (European Rail Traffic Management System), the common signalling standard backed by the European Union.
The intention for ERTMS is that it will, one day, harmonise signalling systems and practices across EU mainline routes, meaning all new mainline projects in the EU must now apply ERTMS signalling technology.
Denmark, however, is the first Member State to adopt ERTMS on a national scale, meaning the complete replacement of the legacy signalling systems.
By 2021, more than 3,000km of existing lineside signalling technology – traditional relay technology, some of which dates back over 50 years and will soon be life-expired – will have been replaced by a system based on radio communications between a central control centre and in-cab displays within the trains.
The result will be a substantial increase in network capacity, with higher levels of traffic moving safely across the networks at higher speeds and shorter headways.
At the same time, another project will, by 2018, see the existing signalling system on the S-bane closed network around Copenhagen replaced by a Communications Based Train Control System (CBTC), a technology optimised for the stop-start nature of urban metro systems.
A critical juncture
Ricardo Rail (formerly Lloyd's Register Rail) is now five years into its role as the Independent Safety Assessor, CSM-REA Assessment Body and Notified Body for the entire resignalling scheme, and the Copenhagen-based team of nine are preparing for a critical juncture in the programme’s development.
Following six years of detailed technical design and planning, the S-bane Early Deployment line is due to enter into service in 2016, which is when the new system and its new operational rules will be put through intense testing in an operational environment.
To remain on schedule, it is essential that Banedanmark, the national infrastructure manager, has secured the safety assessment documentation required to obtain the necessary authorisations from Trafik-og Byggestyrelsen, Denmark’s National Safety Authority in order to place the new systems into operation.
“When you consider the number of parties involved, from the infrastructure manager to the multitude of sub-system and component suppliers down the supply chain, you can imagine how getting the correct documentation in place becomes a major exercise in itself,” says Mark Dodsworth, Principal Consultant and Project Manager for the Ricardo team.
“As the appointed Independent Safety Assessor, we have been heavily involved throughout the planning and design stages, ensuring the project meets both project-specific and regulatory requirements. Over the course of the project we have issued more than 350 Safety Notices in support of the final safety assessment reports we must produce to support the system’s eventual entry into operation. That may sound a lot, but it is what you would expect when introducing such a safety-critical technology of this scale”.
“But our aim is not to obstruct . The priority is always to draw attention to issues as early as possible so that changes can be made during the design stages, which is a more efficient and cost effective approach than having to rectify issues at the last minute or, worse still, after installation”.
Now, as the national signalling project moves towards the final designs and eventual implementation, the team will move more towards its Notified Body role as the client focuses on certification against Interoperability. Ricardo's role here is to ensure that the suppliers - and their own assigned Notified Bodies - have delivered to a pre-defined scope, with no gaps between the various interfaces e.g. between the East and West transition, or between the rolling stock and the infrastructure approvals.
Dual role brings efficiency
Our role as both the Notified Body and ISA has brought a level of continuity to the project.
“As a programme scheduled to extend over 12 years, you accept there will be staff changes as people move on and replacements learn their roles,” says Mark.
“It happens in all parties – suppliers, regulators, independent consultants – so it has been a help to all involved that we have maintained a solid, stable team. It has meant we have formed long-term relationships with each sub-project, and that, in turn, has built up trust and openness. We have strived for a collaborative manner with our client and a 'no-blame' atmosphere”.
Once testing is complete, the nationwide roll-out of ERTMS is expected to be comparatively quick. However, there are major challenges ahead, not least the fact that the current signalling system must remain operational to the very end, with staff required to work with two different systems simultaneously. As the ISA, Ricardo will be looking to ensure training and support will be in place, and that the new organisations that are being established to operate the new systems have the necessary set-up and competence.
As the first country to migrate entirely to ERTMS, Denmark will be firmly at the forefront of its future development.
This presents the team with a ‘front row’ seat for observing how the ERTMS standards and operational rules mature throughout the early stages of a national roll-out. This affords valuable insight into the workings of ERTMS and the Interoperability Directive which Mark and the team report back to colleagues performing similar assurance roles on projects such as Crossrail and the Great Wales and Western (W&W) Integration programme.
“We hold regular meetings between members of other projects where we talk about the issues we face and how we have dealt with them. It is our way of leveraging experience from projects of different sizes and at different stages of their project life”.
“The Copenhagen office might be one of the smaller teams, but projects like this means we are often ahead of our colleagues” says Mark.
“Trafik-og Byggestyrelsen, for example, were the first to adopt the Common Safety Method for Risk Assessment into the National Regulatory Framework and that meant we made an early start getting to grips with its implications”.
“Since then it’s fair to say that we have established ourselves as the lead supplier for Assessment Body projects in Denmark, whilst we have also secured the ISA roles in the new tram lines planned for Copenhagen, Aarhus and Odense."
So the team here is growing all the time. We only established our Copenhagen office in 2010, but thanks to the nature of the work we are exposed to here means we have quickly become an important part of the Ricardo Rail knowledge base.”