Robotics & Automation News

Market trends and business perspectives

Smart travel for future cities

Smart travel for future cities: Integrating and connecting new tram lines

Smart travel for future cities

The main feature that makes a public transport system smart is enhanced control and monitoring features.

In the case of the Nottingham trams Express Transit project, in the UK, these functionalities became a reality through the collaboration of big industry names such as Taylor Woodrow, Alstom, and Boulting Technology.

Nottingham Express Travel Phase Two

In a bid to become one of the UK’s first smart cities, Nottingham has recently expanded its existing tram network to include two new lines to serve the South and South West of the city.

The first new line crosses the river Trent to Clifton and the second connects the Queens Medical Centre, Beeston and Toton.

The new routes join the existing line at Nottingham Station, with the entire network accommodating over 20 million passengers every year. 

With its seven free park and ride sites, the tram offers a convenient alternative to the stressful city centre traffic.

Nottingham Express Transit, or NET, Phase Two added 17.5 kilometres of track, 28 new stops and 22 new trams to the existing network.

Nottingham City Council estimates that the second phase of the NET will take three million car journeys off Nottingham’s roads, significantly improving the traffic levels in the city.

Requirements of the NET

NET Phase Two involved Boulting stepping in as a design consultant to identify technical gaps in the existing infrastructure, integrate the existing fibre optic network and design and build a secondary network for the Urban Traffic Control system.

The secondary network would allow NET to have full control of traffic signals and manage the flow of traffic information to the local authority.

System integration expertise

Integrating the existing optic fibre backbone installed by Alstom into the NET Phase Two, meant Boulting Technology added an extra 37 junctions, across 20 kilometres of tracks.

The network itself had to be high speed, with all the components able to provide 1GB per second operating speed.

Due to geography and existing fibre optic infrastructure, Boulting Technology also integrated a small set of junctions on the existing tramline to meet this requirement.

Boulting Technology installed single-mode fibre optic cables to achieve the required Ethernet communications links between tram stop equipment cabinets, miscellaneous equipment cabinets and traffic signal-controller cabinets.

There were 74 new connections proposed in total across the entire network.

The nature of the project also meant the optic fibre network had to be high availability, highly secure, scalable and very robust.

Working to these requirements, Boulting Technology collaborated closely with Hirschmann to verify the design for active components, network performance and redundancy.

Finally, to allow secure communication with the network’s central monitoring station, the Urban Traffic Control system, Boulting Technology also designed the firewall and internal networking for external users.

Big breakthroughs 

Robin Whitehead, solutions manager at Boulting Technology and project manager for the NET Phase Two programme, says: “One of the big breakthroughs of the project was the modular off-site build Boulting Technology facilitated.

“We designed, built and tested everything in our Stafford facility over the course of several months. We then dismantled the system and migrated it on-site in a live state.

“This approach allowed us to reduce the manpower required on location and minimise any risks to people and equipment on-site.

“Our intervention was as non-intrusive and rapid as possible. The modular design also permits easy migration and expansion paths, should additional plant or equipment be added to further increase the capacity of the network.”

Rob Cullen, systems manager at Taylor Woodrow, says: “A smooth cooperation between contractors and subcontractors was essential to the success of this smart transport project.

“Working with Boulting Technology meant the network integration design was delivered in less than six months and tested without any errors.