Five Safety Risks Facing the Rail Industry of Tomorrow

Rail transportation in the future will be dynamic, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly thanks to digital networks. But this interconnectivity also increases the number of hazards.

Autonomous trains, renewable energy, and real-time traffic analysis: This is how decision makers envisage the future of the rail industry. Which risks arise from these innovations? We’ve summarized the five most important safety considerations:

1. Functional Safety

As the complexity of systems increases, so too does the potential error rate. This calls for new approaches. Standardized safety controllers, known as commercial off-the-shelf systems, comply with the latest standards and regulations without the need for customization. Moreover, operators can implement these controllers around the world without any issues. Spare parts are available quickly and are easy to install, thereby reducing costs.

2. Cybersecurity

In the future, trains will be connected. Wi-Fi will soon be available on all trains. Trains will eventually operate completely autonomously. This creates new vulnerabilities to attacks from hackers or terrorists. Even the best technology is useless if the organization or infrastructure lack sufficient cybersecurity, warns Patric Birr, RAMS Engineer at ICS AG . Without software that protects all devices, the safety system is exposed to numerous dangers. Cyberattacks such as WannaCry prove this.

3. System Integration

Safety systems ensure that trains, control centers, and devices can communicate with one another along the track. In the worst-case scenario, it must be possible to quickly and simply integrate new systems. Only then will rail traffic run seamlessly. Regular maintenance and continuous lifecycle management minimize downtime.

4. Software Development

In the rail sector, there is great interest in real-time analysis. Anomalies in trains and infrastructure can be quickly detected and resolved using real-time analytics tools. If a defined limited is exceeded, service technicians receive a warning notification by e-mail or on the screen they are working with. Notifications provide minute-by-minute updates on availability, performance, and quality.

5. Sensor Technology

Level crossings present numerous risks for road users who wish to cross a track. If barriers and signals are not fully functional, the consequences can be devastating. COTS systems protect against this. The open safety controllers can be deployed at the level crossing itself and wherever there are sensors or train signals. Sensors that detect trains are a direct interface to the signal box. The safety system can react appropriately at all times.

The rail industry of the future is smart. The market must rise to the new challenges of ensuring functional safety and cybersecurity.
Klaus Bosch,
CEO at TÜV SÜD Rail

COTS: Standardized Systems for the Highest Safety Requirements

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