ARTC on the right track with Telstra

The Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) today announced it has signed a multi-million dollar, ten-year contract with Telstra (ASX: TLS) to provide ongoing telecommunications to the national rail freight network.

This announcement enables the national freight network to meet its evolving data intensive communications’ needs and provides a platform for future rail technology innovation. The deal comprises the security of supply, maintenance and enhancement to its Telstra-powered National Train Communications System (NTCS), which supports the ARTC’s 8,500km national rail freight network.

Supported by Australia’s leading telecommunications company, ARTC CEO John Fullerton said the NTCS was essential to ensuring future rail freight success, with a solid digital platform in place to exploit for safety, efficiency and capacity benefits.

“The Telstra-based NTCS will provide a platform for many of the new and exciting innovations being developed by ARTC. Using the Telstra NextG® network, applications such as safe travelling distance technology (proximity alerting), real-time locomotive tracking, sophisticated track and wayside monitoring technology, situational awareness systems and the next generation of train management - the Advanced Train Management System (ATMS) - all become possible.”

“Today demonstrates the strong relationship between the ARTC and Telstra, which is helping drive further innovation, standardisation and interoperability within the national rail freight sector,” Mr Fullerton added.

The announcement follows ARTC officially ‘switching off’ its old, analogue telecommunications network in December 2014 to operate a single nationwide platform. This includes freight trains operating on other rail networks that aren’t managed by ARTC, making it easier for train operators to do business across the country. It also means a single network for communications between train control, trains, trackside workers and wayside equipment.

The ARTC’s move to Telstra NextG® is the first time a rail access provider has moved from a private to a public telecommunications network for railway operations in Australia. The NTCS communications infrastructure uses Telstra NextG® coverage along its routes which includes more than 70 base stations built specifically for ARTC, supplemented by a Telstra Satellite solution powered by Iridium.

“Together, with the ARTC’s vision for rail innovation and Telstra’s agile communications network, we have co-created a mobile and cloud-based solution that will help move the national rail freight sector forward,” Telstra’s Chief Customer Officer, Global Enterprise and Services, Martijn Blanken, said.

“The communication network is built on our world class Telstra NextG® network and supported by our satellite offering, so ARTC has the peace of mind that we can provide redundancy for any black spots along the rail corridor. We have also transitioned ARTC into a private cloud environment, built on VCE Vblock, which will significantly reduce the resources it needs to host the applications the NTCS runs on.” Mr. Blanken concluded.

Overview - National Train Communications System

Funded by the Australian Government, the National Train Communications System (NTCS) provides for routine and emergency communications across ARTC and non ARTC train control territories and has replaced many disparate and old communications systems, of which ARTC was previously required to maintain and support for Train Control operations.

The primary purpose of the NTCS project was to provide a cost efficient, effective and interoperable Train Control communications network to support the current train control requirements and also future proof ARTC by providing a reliable high speed data platform to support future data intensive communications requirements. NTCS provides:

  • A single network for communications between train control, trains, trackside workers and wayside equipment
  • The In-Train Communications Equipment (ICE), the design, and supply of 704 units for train operating companies to install on their motive power units
  • Support for both routine and emergency operations
  • Seamless coverage across the entire Interstate and Hunter Valley Rail Networks
  • Dual redundant communications media – NextG® as the primary media and Iridium satellite as the secondary media
  • Communications interoperability with non-ARTC train control areas
  • Both voice and data communication support services, at agreed service levels
  • GPS tracking
  • A communications backbone for data centric train management systems.
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