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July 22, 2018

ESA Initiative Seeks to Boost GNSS Applications in European Rail Network

The European Space Agency (ESA) has launched a new initiative to
support space-based enhancements to Europe’s railway network.

Space4Rail  will highlight
ESA funding programs that could support the use of GNSS in rail applications
while raising awareness of the added value that space systems can deliver.

GNSS is already being employed within the rail network to monitor
trains and check the integrity of rail infrastructure, and ESA, as a research
and development agency, has various programs dedicated to supporting such

Space4Rail has been set up as a one-stop shop for the rail industry
to learn about the agency and facilitate the submission of proposals for
partnerships. ESA offers financial and technical support to projects –
including access to its specialists and agency laboratories – while acting as a
broker between the space industry, the railway industry, and service providers.

ESA is already contributing to the Next Generation Train Control
(NGTC) project through a satellite expert group, providing technical expertise
on integrating satnav into future railway signaling systems.

Coordinated by the European rail manufacturing industry association
UNIFE and supported through the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Program,
NGTC is a consortium made up of the main rail system signaling suppliers,
together with mainline operators and infrastructure managers as well as urban
rail operators.

One example of such ESA-aided efforts is the 3InSat (Train
Integrated Safety Satellite System) project on a regional railway in Sardinia
(Italy), co-funded within the framework of the ESA´s ARTES 20 program. Led by
Ansaldo STS, the 3InSat team is developing and validating satellite-based
services compatible with the European Railway Traffic Management System

In September, a series of tests iwill validate the GNSS-based
location services that will eventually be integrated into the telecommunication

The European-wide standard for train control and command systems,
ERTMS, has been promoted by the European Union to ensure cross-border
interoperability and simplify procurement of signaling equipment. Since 2004,
ERTMS has been deployed not only on an increasing number of European rail lines
but also on railways in other parts of the world as well, such as in China and
New Zealand.

Introducing satellite navigation and communications into ERTMS has
been a significant challenge due to the stringent safety requirements with
which railway signaling systems must comply. Once the approach is validated, however,
space-based systems could play an important role in making rail transport safer
and expanding the market opportunities for ERTMS.

The two main components of standard ERTMS implementations are the
European Train Control System (ETCS), a standard for in-cab train control, and
GSM-R, which is a GSM-based mobile communications standard for railway
operators. Up to now, trains using ERTMS determine their location by means
of balises, electronic beacons
or transponders, which are placed along a railway every 500–1,500 meters. This
information is transmitted via a dedicated GSM-R terrestrial network to rail
traffic control centers, which use the same network to transmit route data,
recommended speeds and other information to train operators, taking into
account the proximity of other trains.

By Inside GNSS
April 4, 2018

How the Parallel Use of GPS and Galileo Benefits Railway Applications

This article focuses on the research project Galileo Online: GO! – which with support from the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (grant number 50NA1510) designs and develops a reliable and high-precision receiver for multi-constellation and dual-frequency GNSS whose suitability and capabilities are tested in railway applications. Project results showcase the advantages of GPS and Galileo if used simultaneously in railway applications.

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By Inside GNSS
June 19, 2017

Septentrio Honors KU Leuven Ecochallenge Team for Innovative Use of High Precision GNSS Positioning

The KU Leuven Ecochallenge team. Photo source: Septentrio.

Septentrio recently awarded the KU Leuven Ecochallenge team – the winners of the Galileo Masters (Flanders Challenge) of the European Satellite Navigation Competition (ESNC) – a special prize of an AsteRx-m UAS receiver for their proposal to use high-precision, high-reliability Galileo receivers to modernize inland waterway transport by introducing autonomous technology for the vessels.

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By Inside GNSS
April 1, 2017

GNSS for ERTMS Train Localization

Demo Test in Italy on Cagliari – Decimomannu line – February 24, 2017. From left: Josef Doppelbauer (Executive director of ERA – European Union Agency for Rail), Maurizio Gentile (Chief Executive Officer of RFI – Rete Ferroviaria Italiana), Jean-Pierre Loubinoux (Director General of UIC – the worldwide professional association representing the railway sector and promoting rail transport), Carlo des Dorides (Executive director of GSA).

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By Inside GNSS
August 24, 2016

Federal Railroad Administration Announces Status Updates to GPS-Aided Collision Avoidance System

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) last week released a status update that calls for railroads to roll out Positive Train Control (PTC) technologies, which incorporates GNSS technology, as soon as possible. The update also underscores the Obama administration’s calls to provide more funding to assist commuter railroads in implementing PTC.

PTC uses GNSS, but mostly GPS, to prevent train-to-train collisions, high-speed derailments, and the unauthorized movement of trains into work zones.

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By Inside GNSS
March 28, 2016

Up in the AIRR

Anyone who has sat through several iterations of a slide presentation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a better way to do things.

As speakers flip through an exhaustively vetted series of PowerPoint slides, squeezing out a new bullet point or two from one version to the next six months later, watching paint dry seems like a more productive — and briefer — use of one’s time. The agency sometimes brings a whole new meaning to the concept of geological time.

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By Dee Ann Divis
January 14, 2016

GPS-Aided Positive Train Control Goes Back on Transportation Safety Board’s Most Wanted List for 2016

NTSB Chairman Christopher Hart

Once again, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended GPS-aided positive train control (PTC) as one of its “most wanted” transportation safety improvements in 2016. But the agency, which has been advocating for PTC for more than 45 years, appears to be fighting an uphill battle against Congress and the railroad industry.

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By Inside GNSS
November 17, 2015

Positive Train Control Postponed

When the President signed a three-week extension — until Friday (November 20, 2015) — of federal transportation funding, he also gave railroads another three years to install positive train control or PTC on their locomotives and rail networks.

Rail operators now have until 2018 to upgrade their systems — plus another two years to actually get them working.

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By Inside GNSS