Project Description

Zircon’s client is a well-known presence in the railway signalling and control systems sector, and have been a part of numerous projects with the aim to improve the functionality of mainline and metro rail networks in countries all over the globe.

On one such occasion, our client had been awarded a contract to provide a new signalling system and control centre for one of the underground lines in London. Part of this project focused on the development and installation of two pieces of automatic train control equipment to new rolling stock that would enable actions such as pulling away, braking and operation of doors to be completed automatically.

Given the risks that surrounded these new features rigorous testing was deemed essential to ensure that the system would function in a reliable and dependable fashion. This testing process required the collection and analysis of large quantities of data, in order to allow engineers to observe what was happening. This data was to be captured by an on-board data logger.

Zircon was approached by the client when the third party logger being they had been using was found to be underperforming, only a few months before the system was required to go into service. Whilst the client did have appropriately skilled engineers that could develop a new logger in house, they were unavailable at the time of the project. Therefore in order to successfully to complete the task within the tight timeframe the client asked Zircon for assistance.

Having worked alongside Zircon on numerous other projects, our client was confident enough in Zircon’s abilities to take on a more flexible development approach. The situation was outlined in general terms and progress was made on a day-by-day basis with constant discussions and updates. By utilising such an approach, it was possible to develop two different solutions in tandem.

Firstly, a quick fix solution that would run on a standard laptop was developed in order to get the system into service. As this solution was unsuitable for long-term use, hardware was developed that was smaller, more robust and could run off a train’s power supply whilst still being able to meet the needs of the software developed by Zircon.

Each day underground trains carry these data loggers and generate files, which are downloaded each night and sent to our clients offices so that any anomalous events can be identified, analysed and addressed. Zircon was later asked by the client to develop a decoding tool that would make this task easier.