Report on Rail User Needs and Requirements, recently published by the European GNSS Agency (GSA), examines user needs and requirements for position, navigation and timing (PNT) solutions in the rail sector. These reports, which are an outcome of the first European GNSS User Consultation Platform (UCP), will help shape the discussion at the next UCP, to be held as part of European Space Week in Marseille on 3-4 December 2018.

GNSS is already widely used for non-safety and non-liability relevant rail applications, such as passenger information systems. However, as GNSS can support solutions for safety relevant applications that have emerged in recent years, rail stakeholders around the world are also investigating the possibilities for GNSS introduction to cover such advanced and technically complex use-cases.

Rail, however, is a highly regulated domain and the introduction of new technologies is a time-consuming process. Understanding rail user requirements as well as their specifications in terms of GNSS is crucial to foster GNSS penetration in this market. Rail and GNSS communities have been working together for many years to increase this understanding.

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Limitations and development axes

The main limitations for GNSS penetration in rail PNT applications concern Signal-in-Space obscuration, for example at stations, deep cuttings or in tunnels; the very high availability and integrity requirements for train position determination; excessive positioning errors due to local effects such as multipath; and also high accuracy requirements for some specific functions, like train positioning on parallel tracks.

Given these limitations, the main axes of development for GNSS applications in rail are safety relevant and liability relevant applications where EGNSS differentiators can play a key role. Within the context of the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS), GNSS could be used as way of reducing the need for physical balises in the European Train Control System (ETCS). Outside of the ERTMS, GNSS is already being deployed for train control, particularly in Positive Train Control applications in the USA.

Read thisEuropean GNSS contributes to the evolution of ERTMS

In recent years, the rail and GNSS communities have conducted a lot of work to try and understand their respective safety philosophies. However, work is still needed to define user requirements applicable to GNSS and, in particular, to establish quantified requirements. The EGNSS User Consultation Platform is a key tool in this process.

The EGNSS User Consultation Platform

The UCP is a periodic forum organised by the European Commission and the GSA involving end users, user associations and representatives of the value chain, such as receiver and chipset manufacturers, application developers and the organisations and institutions dealing, directly and indirectly, with Galileo and EGNOS. The Platform is a part of the process developed at the GSA to collect user needs and requirements and take them as inputs for the provision of user-driven Galileo and EGNOS services.

The next User Consultation Platform will be held on 3-4 December, during European Space Week in Marseille. The main work of the UCP will be carried out in eight parallel panel sessions grouping users by market segment, with a dedicated session on the rail sector.

This year, European Space Week also has a special session on Infrastructure Management, which will highlight how the Galileo and Copernicus programmes contribute to the operation and monitoring of complex infrastructure networks, including rail networks. Infrastructures around the world also face challenges relating to climate change. Here too, European GNSS offers a solution. This session will showcase potential solutions and best-practices for using Copernicus and Galileo to manage infrastructures, both in Europe and worldwide.

To join the ongoing discussion and to ensure that future European space programme evolutions meet your needs and requirements, you can take part by registering to attend European Space Week here.

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