31 Aug 2020

The limits of standardization: Why local public transport needs its own control and passenger system

Extract from "Signal + Draht", Edition 7/8 2020

Whether regarding the questions of pollution levels or urban congestion: Regional and local transport will continue to grow in importance in the coming years. To meet these needs, the supply must grow accordingly. The expansion of infrastructure is only one option – especially since it requires a long-term horizon for planning, approval, and construction. By contrast, one popular idea is increasing the schedule frequency by shortening the time between trains.

But what about the required technology? Can systems like those already in service in the newly constructed networks in Asia or South America be used? Or will control systems like those developed for long-distance transport be used here?
 
Operators, cities, and municipalities are desperately seeking efficient solutions to quickly and reliably serve continuously growing passenger numbers. Since the construction of new infrastructure is time-consuming and costly, the preferred solution in an urban context is to increase the frequency of trips. But here, too, there are limiting factors. These include vehicle procurement and recruiting and training additional drivers. And finally, increasing the frequency of trips quickly pushes existing technology to its limits. For this reason, automated driving – including the (partial) automation of complex control processes – is attracting increasing attention from public transport system operators.

Demands, primarily from the area of standardisation, are pushing for the adoption of proven solutions from the long-distance transport sector. However, assumptions that the transfer of control systems from one area to another would be easy have proven false. One important factor is that in most cases, the infrastructure is not completely new; local and regional transport systems have significant differences from long-distance transport that must be reflected in the control systems.

Signal + Draht