Exhibiting at Rail Live at Long Marston again this year, Schweizer Electronic will be exhibiting two products recently approved by Network Rail; VaMoS, an overlay miniature stop light designed for footpath and farm crossings, and Minimel Lynx, a mobile track warning system ideal for patrolling and short worksites in LOWS, SATWS or ATWS configurations.


VaMoS provides a cost effective Level Crossing solution for Footpath and Farm crossings. The system comprises of standard industrial automation technology and Frauscher wheel sensors, which together with Schweizer’s failsafe modules gives a safety integrity level of SIL3. This system also benefits from low maintenance costs, and will automatically make contact with the depot if a fault exists.


Minimel Lynx, Schweizer Electronic’s new Portable Track Warning System (TWS) has recently received approval by Network Rail to operate as a Lookout Operated Warning System (LOWS), and also trial approval to operate automatically without lookouts as a Semi or Fully Automatic Track Warning System (SATWS/ATWS). Trialed on the LNE route, around London on LNW and also in North Wales, the system has radio communication reliance between devices which has been proven to work in areas previously deemed Radio Black Spots. Together with a radio repeater, this ensures radio reception in difficult topology and makes Minimel Lynx the most user friendly TWS on the market.


For over 50 years, Schweizer Electronic have manufactured Track Warning Systems and Level Crossings from Switzerland, serving Rail infrastructure companies across the world. Its products are designed to provide the lowest cost of ownership solutions for crossings, and safe access to running rail for track workers, facilitating productive rail maintenance and construction techniques. For more information, contact 01827 289996 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The ten-mile branch line from Wareham to Corfe Castle and Swanage was opened in 1885 and today is not just a tourist attraction, but reduces traffic congestion on the narrow and winding A351 road from Corfe Castle to Swanage by taking some 40,000 cars off the road every year.  Today carrying more than 200,000 passengers a year, the Swanage Railway operates one of the most intensive train services of any preserved heritage railway in the country.


A full-barrier level crossing with lights, on the public access road to the Swanage Railway's Norden Park & Ride station, was required before regular trains could run between Wareham, Corfe Castle and Swanage. The high cost of a traditional relay bespoke design was too expensive for the charity, so the railway turned to international specialist Schweizer Electronic for assistance.


Schweizer Electronic Ltd has over 30 years’ experience in developing and manufacturing level crossing systems. With the group headquarters in Switzerland, Schweizer has been supplying the UK since 2002. They provide a range of products including: automatic warning systems, lookout warning systems for temporary worksites, permanent track warning systems and level crossing systems.


The company’s recommendation was to use the Flex system. Flex is a PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) system that uses standard industrial automation components but with addition of Schweizer’s failsafe components to create a SIL4 (safety integrity level) crossing. The system has received approval from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR).


The Flex system is a modular platform which has a generic safety case and can be provided in a number of configurations and sizes.  Flex level crossings can control up to 12 barriers and 32 lights (across multi sites if necessary). It features industrial design ‘plug and play’ components with cost and maintenance benefits, together with Schweizer developed technology to ensure safety. Flex is one of the most widely used level crossing systems in Switzerland with numerous installations and is now installed for use in other countries including Germany and UK.

Competence


Schweizer Electronics’ core competence is with high-security remote control and radio data transmission systems, along with interactive diagnostic systems for use wherever safety and efficiency are important. Within the company, all operating processes are governed and certified in accordance with ISO 9001 and CENELEC EN 50 126. Schweizer prides itself with increasing safety using the latest technology while also improving efficiency, user friendliness and worker productivity.


The company holds Link-up accreditation for staff protection systems, level crossings and track worker protection and is a member of the Rail Alliance and the Contractors Plant Association. It has made something of a speciality of improving level crossings, particularly those small, out-of-the-way ones used by pedestrians, horses, and farmers for access.

Occupation and accommodation crossings


When the railway was first built, former railway companies were required to provide access across the railway for those affected. Where this resulted in the construction of a level crossing which was operated by the user, and unless the landowner has agreed to give up their rights to use it, it is still Network Rail’s responsibility as owner of the crossing to provide and to maintain it for the safe benefit and user.


Such private, user-worked level crossings are commonly known as either ‘occupation’ or ‘accommodation’ crossings. Where a private road or track existed before the railway was constructed, a user worked level crossing of ‘occupation’ status was provided. The owners of the land and those who also have a legitimate right to use the road will all have a legal right to use the crossing. User worked crossings of ‘accommodation’ status were provided to maintain access between lands severed by the railway where a roadway or track did not previously exist. The most common accommodation crossing is the standard field-to-field crossing.


These types of crossing present one of the greatest risks to today’s railway, along with footpath and bridleway crossings. The user is responsible for opening or shutting any barrier or gates provided and for making sure it is safe to use the crossing. This is normally by checking by that there are no approaching trains by sight or, where visibility is not adequate, phoning the signaller.  This, however, presents another risk in that, in absolute block areas, the signaller may not know where the train is in relation to the crossing. In some areas the signaller may have several such crossings to manage. The risk of miscommunication will only get greater with the introduction of larger control area with traffic management, and methods are required to reduce the signaller workload.

Miniature stop lights (MSL)


MSLs, also known as miniature warning lights, are a way of assisting the user. They consist of red and green lights to advise of approaching trains. The green light normally shows, but an approaching train automatically changes the lights to red. MSL crossings can be operated by track circuits, treadles or axle counters.


MSLs are located so that they face towards an approaching user and need to be clearly visible to the crossing users when operating the gates or barriers. The red and green lights have to be sufficiently bright to be clearly seen by users at the decision point. Light emitting diodes (LED) lamps are now available which are brighter and more reliable than traditional filament lamps.

VaMoS


This is the Schweizer version of an MSL crossing and is a welcome addition to the approved product portfolio designed to improve the safety of user worked crossings.  It is a fully automatic solution which has been specifically designed to improve the safety of UWCs, bridleways and footpaths. Using the same parent technology as Flex, Vamos is suitable for both single and multiple track crossings. It is the simplest and most cost effective crossing developed by Schweizer as it doesn’t use a PLC, but simple hard wired logic to save cost and not to over-engineer the solution.


The system is fully complaint with SIL3 and only requires an extremely low power supply, making the system suitable for alternative and renewable power supplies. The system requires very low lifetime maintenance and has been designed to maximise reliability and availability. It is of an autonomous overlay design, which can be installed independent from existing signalling systems using axle counters for train detection.


In Switzerland, the VaMoS system could be designed, installed and tested in a matter of days. This should be the objective for the UK and Schweizer are working with a number of installers and integrators to provide a cheaper, off-the-shelf package that can be provided in a similar timescale. This may also include installation and testing by Network Rail’s internal works delivery organisation.


A key feature is its very low power requirements of only 60 watt from either a 110/240 VAC (0.25A) or 24V DC supply (2.5A). Solar power operation is therefore possible. The red/green LED lights are very prominent and larger than on a conventional MSL crossing. The on-demand option reduces power consumption even further and reduces glare to nearby residents. The system is of modular conception with plug-and-play functionality for installation. The onsite data logger provides remote condition monitoring information to the maintainer via text SMS or into an email using a text-to-email conversion application, if a suitable IP connection can be made available. So this is another candidate for Network Rail Telecom’s lineside FTNx ethernet role out.


Train detection is provided by using rail induction, axle-counting devices. As well as the road user interface of red/green stop/go lights, an audible system (and voice) is also provided. Dry contacts are also available for driving other outputs, which could include gate or barrier locking. These are not SIL3 but could be provided as a safety enhancement with the main protection provided by the SIL3 lights.

Environmental conditions are compliant to EN 50125-3 railway environment, with safety in accordance with:

  • EN 50126 Railway Applications - Specification and Demonstration of Reliability, Availability, maintainability and Safety (RAMS),
  • EN 50129 Railway Applications - Communications, signalling and processing systems – Safety related electronic systems for signalling. (describes what action and documentation has to be provided for preparing a safety case)
  • EN 50128 Railway applications. Communication, signalling and processing systems. Software for railway control and protection systems.
    The system was successfully trialled at crossings with parallel working and has now received full Network Rail approval and is available via a call off contract, which was established after a competitive tender. Network Rail reported that the Schweizer’s Vamos was one of the best safety submissions they have received for such systems and there is already interest from most routes.