The project will assess operational procedures and advanced testing methods for ETCS Level 3 Moving Block signalling, as well as communication technologies and market potential of Virtual Coupling.

The project will analyse the application of Moving Block and Virtual Coupling signalling considered as the most promising technologies for increasing line capacity and reducing wayside life-cycle costs. The two concepts are in a different stage with Moving Block being an established standard in ERTMS/ETCS Level 3 and metro systems, while Virtual Coupling is still in the conceptual stage. Both signalling approaches are based on train-centric solutions using position information from the trains rather than train detection information from tracks. They differ in the fact that Moving Block allows train separation based on an absolute braking distance between trains, while Virtual Coupling enables a relative braking distance incorporating the braking behaviour of a leading train.

Within the MOVINGRAIL project, the carefully selected consortium members will build on existing European and national research projects to bring together technologies and concepts that will significantly boost innovative and cost-efficient technologies and systems for railway signalling. In order to develop the project, the consortium decomposed the high-level aims documented in the project Call and the technical ambition for the D2.3 Moving Block and the D2.8 Virtual Coupling detailed in the Shift2Rail Multi-Annual Action Plan, to identify the key objectives that will help overcome existing barriers to innovation and introduce innovative methods, technological solutions and validation processes to Moving Block and Virtual Coupling. The key objectives are:

Objective 1.

Identify Operational procedures for Moving Block and Virtual Coupling signalling, which ensure safe train separation, especially in particularly critical areas such as stations and junctions.

Objective 2.

Validate the Moving Block Operational and Engineering Rules and identify operational differences from traditional signalling to provide recommendations for easier implementation of Moving Block.

Objective 3.

Define improved strategies and methods for testing of Moving Block signalling systems, including trade-offs between laboratory and on-site testing.

Objective 4.

Assessing requirement compliance of radio-based communication structures proposed in Shift2Rail IP1 and IP2 and define improved architectures that more effectively satisfy user requirements in terms of costs and performance.

Objective 5.

Investigate Automated Vehicle communication technologies and identify analogies for potential applicability to the railways for fast-tracking Virtual Coupling development.

Objective 6.

Identify market potentials for Virtual Coupling and assess impacts on different railway market segments in terms of costs, performance and operator needs.

Objective 7.

Provide a roadmap for the introduction of Virtual Coupling considering potential business risks and possible migration issues.

The MOVINGRAIL framework will be built by grouping activities in three main working areas, in line with each of the three domains (i.e. operational, technological, business) identified to abstract macro-areas of the railway enterprise. The work in the project is arranged within a total of six work packages that will be interacting among each other as represented in the following figure:

MOVINRAIL project organisation


The project will bring forward innovative concepts of “moving-block” railway traffic operations by (1) advancing testing methods for ETCS Level 3 and (2) Analysing Virtual Coupling which will lead to convoys of automated trains under cooperative adaptive control.

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 826347.