DB Netz and ProRail: Agreement signed for international knowledge cooperation with universities in the signalling domain

Developments in technology are going faster and faster. We also want to achieve the benefits in the signalling domain. The dilemma is that the development of safe systems must be done carefully, the safety assessment of modern technology is becoming increasingly complex and takes longer. In 2017, an initial study showed that formal mathematical methods can help us to solve this dilemma. The signed contract helps us to reach this goal: in international cooperation and with leading knowledge institutes, we develop methods that can be used to demonstrate the safe functioning of the combination of subsystems.

Existing certification processes at ProRail and DB can be improved and accelerated with this. Karel van Gils, Innovation Director at ProRail, is enthusiastic about the new collaboration: "This collaboration with DB and the scientific institutes is a great way to accelerate the transition from the old to the new world of signaling ".

Digitalization and automation of signaling contributes significantly to the ProRail strategy. To prevent collisions and derailments, the Signaling department is responsible for safety systems. These systems must be specified; up to now, requirements are mostly formulated in natural language. In 2017, in an award-winning study a master student from Eindhoven University of Technology demonstrated the usability for ProRail of semi-formal specifications. Such methods make specifications clearer and therefore there are fewer misunderstandings.

In the world of signalling, the initiatives of ERTMS and EULYNX are combined on a European scale. The digitalization, as applied in an international partnership EULYNX, improves the interchangeability of signalling subsystems through standardization of interfaces. Those standardized interfaces are no longer implemented with copper connections but with fiber optics, which means that an important step in sustainability is also made with considerably lower costs. Such a modern way of communication goes together with modern specification methods according to Model Based System Engineering (MBSE), where use is made of modeling in a semi-formal language, called SysML.

In the project two students who have a master degree, one from TU Eindhoven and one from the TU Twente, are trained to become specialists with knowledge of formal methods in the domain of signalling of both ProRail and the DB. Unlike semi-formal methods, formal methods can be used to demonstrate that the interface specifications are met on a larger and more automated basis. The universities have already developed tools for the use of formal method, but these have not yet been fully developed and widely applied. The expectation is that with this fundamental research in four years the automatic testing comes within reach. ProRail and DB have agreed that the results will also be made available to other infrastructure managers in Europe cooperating in EULYNX.