Iarnród Éireann (IÉ) appointed Ricardo to conduct technical assessments for its strategy to update and integrate Ireland's network control systems.
The existing Centralised Traffic Control centre (CTC) was established in the 1970s but has not been substantially overhauled since the 1980s, when the facility was extended to manage the Dublin Area Rapid Transit system (DART), Dublin’s suburban network.
Due to capacity constraints at the CTC, it is only able to control around 75% of the network (approximately 1,500km of track). The remaining 25% is managed by local signal boxes. Also, the control technology used at the CTC has been approaching the end of its serviceable life.
In 2015 IE commenced the early planning for a new National Control Centre (NCC) to manage the entire national network with upgraded technology and the capacity to handle further expansion in the future.
As well as supporting improved network performance – which includes efficiencies gained from closing local mechanical signal boxes – the NCC will enable more co-ordination between routes, improved decision making during service disruption and real-time information systems for passengers.
Safe transition of services
To ensure a smooth transfer of operations to the NCC, Ricardo’s experts helped prepare a staging strategy that clearly set out how systems could switch across with no negative impact on day-to-day services.
As part of the process, our teams conducted risk assessments for each of the staging options, providing expert judgements on the potential impacts on safety, service levels and network capacity. Our teams also recommended mitigation measures for each case.
The teams' work covered a range of issues, from the technical specifications for the new control systems to human factors aspects such as workstation design and workload assessments for individual staff.
Construction of the €135 million NCC, which will be located at Heuston Station, was approved by the Irish government in July 2019, and early enabling works on the site started in 2020.
The NCC is expected to start operating from 2023, with a back up centre following shortly after.