Infrabel has undergone its greatest digital revolution for 20 years - 17/11/2016

During the night of 11/12 November 2016, the computer system that manages and monitors rail traffic across the whole of Belgium was replaced by new technology. Without a hint of exaggeration, this is a digital changeover the likes of which has rarely been seen before in the Belgian railway sector.

Successful changeover to a new traffic system

The technology responsible for running rail traffic smoothly was 20 years old and therefore urgently in need of replacement. Infrabel decided to introduce a new system which is already being used in Switzerland and which has proved its value many times over.

The Belgian railway sector has rarely experienced a digital changeover on this scale before. In one night, we completed the simultaneous nationwide switchover from the existing system to a new, modern traffic management system (TMS).

The traffic system of the future

The new TMS provides several key benefits in terms of punctuality, safety and passenger information.

The system tracks rail traffic in real time and automatically provides a reliable estimated time of arrival for each train journey. The calculations are updated every two seconds. The system is also able to flag up potential future conflicts on the track (e.g. a train behind a stationary train will need to stop and wait). This enables personnel to respond to the situation quickly and appropriately, which helps improve punctuality.

The new system also provides an opportunity to reorganise operations, with traffic controllers now able to focus exclusively on managing and monitoring rail traffic, thanks to the new tool. This leaves the safety controllers responsible for carrying out all the safety-related tasks and procedures. As a result, the overall safety level will be given a boost too.

Last but not least, the TMS takes into account all forms of information, including the type of train, the railway infrastructure, the speed at points, temporary speed restrictions and planned works. The new technology creates a list of all possible train connections, which is then used to inform passengers with the most up to date and relevant information available.

Exhaustive training and close monitoring

Before the system was put into operation, the members of staff at Infrabel were given exhaustive training on how to use the technology, and sufficient time was made available for staff to practise with the new system. 

This weekend, a taskforce of specialists was on standby round the clock to resolve any technical problems as swiftly as possible, and to provide staff with maximum support during the transition to the new system. In the end, there were only a few minor technical issues that our specialists resolved rapidly.

A successful digital (r)evolution that will completely change the way that signal cabins and the traffic coordination centre work throughout Belgium!