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Communications-Based Train Control: Test Program Challenges

[+] Author Affiliations
Kenneth Diemunsch

Parsons, Oakland, CA

Keith Altamirano

IKOS Consulting, New York, NY

Paper No. JRC2018-6123, pp. V001T03A003; 8 pages
  • 2018 Joint Rail Conference
  • 2018 Joint Rail Conference
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, April 18–20, 2018
  • Conference Sponsors: Rail Transportation Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-5097-8
  • Copyright © 2018 by ASME


This paper discusses two real-world challenges faced by Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) testing programs.

a) Why is it that even after a successful complete system Factory Acceptance Test (FAT), the performance of the CBTC system during the first few months of field tests is prone to frequent failures? On some projects, it may be months between a successful FAT and the first operation in CBTC mode.

b) How accurately and efficiently can the root cause of failures during the field tests be identified and how could a test program be improved to have a smooth transition from field testing to revenue service.

Unlike commissioning a conventional signaling system, where after circuit break down and operation testing are completed, the system works well during revenue service, CBTC projects experience an additional round of ‘surprises’ when the system is put in service after months or years of testing [1]. This comment is valid for both new lines and signaling upgrade projects, it should be noted that signaling upgrade projects are more prone to ‘surprises’ due to the limited track access which reduces testing time. Even though the final test results prior to revenue service indicate no ‘showstoppers’, once system is placed in service, it is common to unearth major issues that impact sustainable revenue operation. Though, as it should, this often comes as a surprise to transit agencies installing CBTC for the first time, it is almost accepted as fate by most of the experienced CBTC engineers. This paper describes the tests performed prior to placing system in revenue service and analyzes some of the issues experienced. Detailed information regarding the field tests can be found in [2]. Description of possible mitigations used by CBTC suppliers and transit agencies are included, as well as likely reasons for such a predictable pattern on CBTC projects. Finally, ideas about how to continue improving the mitigation to minimize the risk of major system issues are presented.

Copyright © 2018 by ASME



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