Industrial Automation

The Future of High-Speed Rail Depends on Integrated Networks

Pradeep Kumar
Learn how an integrated network centralizes control of your transit system so you can manage trains, tracks, trackside/wayside, stations and OCCs in one place.



High-speed rail is on the rise around the world, including in the United States, especially with the recent proposal of the American High-Speed Rail Act. This $205 billion investment in rail operations will help form the infrastructure required for high-capacity, high-speed trains across the country.


But bringing this faster, cleaner and safer transportation option to fruition will require many things—including taking an integrated network approach to rail connectivity to manage smart signaling and communication systems.


Today’s Intelligent Signaling and Communication Systems

To ensure efficient and safe operations, high-speed railways rely on intelligent signaling and communication systems. These systems can include:

  • CBTC (communications-based train control), which relies on radio communication to transfer train control information.
  • PTC (positive train control), which tracks data to help engineers prevent train collisions, derailments, over-speeds or running red signal lights.
  • ERTMS (European rail traffic management system), which is a control, command, signaling and communication system that supervises maximum speeds and supports voice services.


The advanced signaling and communication systems used for the high-speed rail systems of today significantly outperform the traditional train travel systems of years ago, which don’t typically involve capabilities for continuous monitoring or real-time adjustments.


Today’s systems can help rail operators and engineers:

  • Improve safety for onboard passengers and at crossings
  • Maximize the use of railway infrastructure
  • Provide faster, more accurate services


Integrated Networks Support Valuable Data Flow

Regardless of which signaling system(s) a high-speed rail network uses, that system’s data must pass through the core backbone for system-wide visibility, enhanced safety and improved efficiency.


An integrated network approach to rail connectivity helps you take control of your entire transit system so you can manage and visualize trains, tracks, trackside/wayside, stations and operational control centers (OCCs) through a single powerful communications network.


This integration builds a strong foundation to connect vital signaling systems, as well as other systems, such as passenger Wi-Fi, ticketing and video monitoring, so data can move to wherever it’s needed for faster decision-making.


Consider cameras, for example. Video surveillance is used at station and trackside locations, as well as onboard. These cameras need to be connected to the network so their data can be captured and sent to the correct destination. This allows engineers and operators to monitor real-time video streaming and/or view recorded footage of security issues and other events.


However, to transmit video data, faster and more efficient throughput bandwidth is required. When the train is moving and an operator needs to download video data, an integrated network approach ensures they have the bandwidth and the pathway to do so.


MPLS-TP: A Good Match for High-Speed Rail Networks

MPLS-TP technology can be the ideal fit for integrated network approaches.


It can support many of the critical communication requirements we’ve discussed in this blog, including train control and signaling, camera, remote monitoring system, fire detection, security systems, cybersecurity, passenger information systems and other operational functions.


MPLS-TP networking protocol, defined in RFC 5317, is based on MPLS technology and optimized for mission-critical networks. It enables packet transport services with the predictability and reliability found in existing transport networks. It’s defined by ITU-T and IETF to specifically address the needs of OT networks.


Implementing MPLS-TP can even be done offsite through a network management system, allowing validation of the network’s design before it’s deployed, which will reduce rework, labor costs and revenue disruption.


It provides a robust and reliable framework for high-speed railways while aligning with the strict operational, safety, efficiency and reliability requirements that these environments demand.


Take Control of Your Transit Network

Belden’s mass transit experts can help you create a reliable backbone for your integrated network—one that creates a foundation and pathway for your railway data and subsystems, including trackside/wayside, stations and operational control centers.


Our services reach beyond network design to include implementation as well, which can be the most difficult part of an integrated network.


Our Customer Innovation Centers act as labs where we can work together to design, build and test possible solutions in an environment that replicates yours. You will know exactly how a solution will work without having to disrupt your operations or revenue flow to test it in your own environment. When you’re ready to deploy, you can plug and play with confidence.



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