London Underground visualises Victoria Line to detect signal failure, will extend to entire network

IT investments in the Victoria Line meant it has not suffered from signal failure since February, London Underground’s (LU) trains and signalling integrating monitor revealed yesterday at the National Instruments conference in London.

The historic line has benefited from a 10-year-long, £1 billion investment project which, along with engineering work, has transformed its IT stack.

Now staff use a Windows 8 interface to monitor the track circuits in real-time and apply fixes from their offices.

Signal failures trigger city-wide panic amongst commuters as well as maintenance teams who could travel miles to identify and fix a signal fault.

Additionally, breaks often occur while engineers are trying to fix the fault - something which is not apparent until service resumes.

But LU’s trains and signalling integrating monitor Sam Etchell said that since deploying NI’s hardware automated testing hardware, “you don’t need to be on site so you can instantly be on a failure”.

Now the Victoria Line, which has 213 million customers, can see faults in real-time remotely, and can assist engineers as well as deploy fixes from control rooms. The line’s improved signalling system allows it to send 33 to 34 trains past London’s platforms an hour, almost one a minute.

The system is based on National Instruments’ (NI) CompactRIOs, a control and monitoring system that moves data from the track circuit around a bespoke 10 GB network.

The network connects to a condition monitoring network server that knows the ideal conditions for the CompactRIO and can automatically make a decision on the health of the track by detecting changes.

This means the network team is “better able to advise the business about a failure” since installing the CompactRIOs, so the LU can update its customers with more accurate and timely information during delays.

Track circuit data flows through a processing SQL server database and on to the team's 55” touch-pads that are installed on all the racks in the engineering sites and maintenance depots that are dotted around the line. It is accesible through employees' mobile devices.

The team brought in integrator Simplicity AI to assist with the deployment, as LU did not want to train staff in NI. The 12-month project was completed this year.

It is hoped the system will be extended to the entire network. Etchell said: “We are looking to integrate it into part [of LU’s] business as usual so we can start preventing rather than reacting to failures.”

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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