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The Christmas holidays can be a busy period for the railways.

Even if passenger travel this year was quieter than normal, important improvement work often continues – and this year was no different.

On the evening of Dec 28 2020, I found myself in the project room at the Posto Centrale of Bologna station with our Hitachi Rail teams and our customer RFI.

Together, we were about to launch a new signalling technology to help Italy’s railways to become safer, more reliable and provide faster connections for passengers travelling between the north and the south.

The test represents the pilot project for the whole ERTMS upgrade for the entire High Speed line capability in Italy.

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Currently, legacy signalling systems mean that trains can either run on high speed lines, or on conventional lines, but not both. That means that passengers have to stop journeys to change trains – increasing journey times and reducing the convenience of long distance rail as a low carbon form of travel.

Covering roughly 60 km of line between Firenze and Arezzo Sud, this moment marked a significant achievement because Hitachi Rail was able to partner with operators at the Posto Centrale of Bologna station to design, develop and execute the test without any legacy back up signalling solutions.

This was the first time such a feat has been accomplished, allowing the operator a more seamless transition to a single traffic management solution – instead of bearing the cost of running multiple systems simultaneously.

This is the first step of the overall implementation of the 234 km Firenze – Roma high speed-line. The entire line is undergoing deep technological upgrade, which aims at deploying the ERTMS, ACCM (Apparato Centrale Computerizzato Multistazione, or Interlocking Computerized Multi-Station) and SCCM (Sistema Controllo e Comando Multistazione, or Multistation Command and Control System), systems on the line.

The final goal is to replace former national signaling technologies and operational schemes with a single new Europe-wide signaling technology to control trains and command systems.

In particular during a very complicated year, characterised by disruption caused by the pandemic, this achievement demonstrates our commitment to empower our customers to make transport systems safer, more reliable and convenient for passengers.

The stakes were very high to all of us, due to also the deployment of innovative and new technologies. The strong collaborative approach by RFI helped us to aim at improving our products and services using Hitachi’s model of “CoCreation”.

About the author

Christian Andi

Christian Andi

Executive Officer and Head of Sales & Projects – EMEA