Kapsch is building a digital radio network for the Tyne and Wear Metro, one of busiest light rail systems in Great Britain

23 June 2014  •  Author(s): Kapsch

Kapsch CarrierCom is expanding its activities to the public transport sector and, in the past two years, has established the Public Transport business unit. The company’s longstanding experience with telecommunications systems, the knowhow of Kapsch’s public transport experts, and the state-of-the-art technology Kapsch, were the main factors that resulted in a £7.7m contract win for the implementation of a digital radio network based on the TETRA standard. The customer is Nexus, the strategic public transport body in North East England, based in Newcastle, which owns and manages the Tyne and Wear Metro – Great Britain’s most highly frequented public transport system outside of London. The Metro system is used annually by 37 million passengers. The new digital radio system will be installed on Metro’s fleet of 90 trains, replacing the existing analog system. It will contribute to safe and smooth operation in the future and it will establish the basis for Nexus to develop and expand its service offerings. The project forms part of the £389m Metro all change modernisation programme, which is an 11 year programme of modernisation work on the Tyne and Wear Metro, which is being funded by the UK Government.

“The Nexus contract is the largest of its kind so far in the Public Transport business unit, a field that we have entered only recently. It demonstrates quite remarkably that our strategy of applying our experience in planning, building, and operating communications solutions to public transport operations was exactly the right step to take,” says Kari Kapsch, CEO of Kapsch CarrierCom. Kapsch will build the entire TETRA infrastructure; deliver cab radios (the communications devices used in the vehicles) as well as all the terminals for the control centers. The new communications system will provide full coverage of the network in the entire Nexus area of operation and will also provide a significantly better performance than the existing analog system.

Director of Rail and Infrastructure for Nexus, Raymond Johnstone, said: “The work to replace the radio system on the Tyne and Wear Metro is a highly significant part of our £389m modernisation programme. It is vital work that will harness the very latest digital technology to vastly improve Metro’s communication system. The current analog system is reliable but we will get much better performance from more modern telecommunications technology.”

Migration without restricting ongoing operations

The biggest challenge is to introduce the digital trunked radio technology during the next 18 months without impairing ongoing operations. During the migration phase staff can work comfortably with both technologies. A total of 60 stops, two Metro lines with a total length of 77 kilometers, 90 Metrocars and three shunting cars, require intensive planning and preparation.

Innovation partnership

Nexus is an extremely innovative public transport operator. The company was the first provider in the UK to ensure seamless cell phone and Internet reception on underground routes. Once the communication system has been converted to the IP-based TETRA solution, new possibilities will open up for additional innovation.

The Metro all change modernisation programme began in 2010 when the UK Government agreed to funding of £389m for the modernisation of the 34 year-old Tyne and Wear Metro system.
Nexus, the Passenger Transport Executive, is delivering the project which involves the modernisation of Metro stations, refurbished trains, new smart ticketing systems and replacement of essential rail infrastructure.

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