Amtrak to upgrade traffic control

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation'commonly known as Amtrak' has awarded a contract to ARINC to develop a centralized electrification and traffic control (CETC) system for the Northeast travel corridor that runs from Washington through Baltimore; Wilmington, Del.; Philadelphia; Trenton and Newark, N.J.; New York; New Haven, Conn.; Providence, R.I.; and Boston.

Electrification refers to powering trains that run on electricity rather than another source such as diesel fuel. Electrification is typically supplied through a third rail or overhead contact lines. A centralized traffic control system will provide remote centralized control of traffic on the rail lines, in stations and at rail junctions. The system provides command and control for the dispatch of all types of systems, including subways and light, commuter, interstate and freight rail systems.

The system will be based on ARINC's Advanced Information Management (AIM) platform, which the company has deployed for several transit agencies in the Northeast travel corridor, including the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority; New Jersey Transit; and the Metro North, Long Island and Mass Bay Commuter railroads.

The open architecture of the AIM product already deployed at several transit agencies along the Northeast travel corridor will ease data exchange among Amtrak and the other transit agencies and increase operational efficiencies for all, according to the company.

The AIM system will add functionality to Amtrak's current CETC system. Based on open systems and commercial technology, the AIM system will provide enhanced blocking capabilities by integrating the Northeast Operating Rules Advisory Committee Form D and blocking functions, enhanced graphics and field communications tools, and other functionality enhancements.

As part of the overall CETC replacement project, ARINC will integrate an energy management system to let Amtrak monitor and manage available energy on the Northeast corridor.

For example, during the major power outages that occurred across the Northeastern United States in 2003, including New York City, much of the Amtrak train system in the Northeast corridor lost power, leaving passengers stranded on trains. The new CETC system 'could look at the available power on the grid and estimate how to operate the trains with the available power,' said Terry Robinson, senior director of transportation systems integration at ARINC. 'The system can allow operators to delay the dispatch of trains in the station to reduce the overall energy required, allowing trains already dispatched to continue to their destinations.'

The project is expected to run for approximately three years, with the first transition to the new CETC scheduled to occur in March 2010.

About the Author

Dan Campbell is a freelance writer with Government Computer News and the president of Millennia Systems Inc.

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