Home Special CoverageMetro The New Technology and Innovation In Metro Rail

The New Technology and Innovation In Metro Rail

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The rapid pace of technological, environmental and demographic change is leading to some major technological innovations in the world of metro. The increase in urbanisation will place a higher demand on infrastructure, and therefore Rail and Metro transportation will play the vital role. The metro is destined to remain a pillar of urban mobility. As a quick and practical mode of transport, it is the best option for serving the development of large conurbations, particularly to meet the challenges of climate change. Public transport powered by electricity is the most obvious way of reducing the greenhouse gas and particle emissions generated by traffic congestion. Its underlying principles correspond to the main objective of sustainable development. Making the metro attractive, now and in the future, will rely heavily on improving access, signage and information systems. New technology will play an important role and will streamline travellers’ journeys. Likewise, with more efficient operating and maintenance, the equipment is becoming increasingly available. But the metro is not just a means of transport. 

It is also a space that embodies the town, expressing part of its identity. Stations evolving at the pace of urban evolution and the changing rhythm of life could change the face, and even the very definition of the metro.

From station to multimodal transport hub

By 2035, underground stations will look completely different. Traditional turnstiles will have disappeared. Personalised signage will be everywhere, using real-time connectivity. More accurate information about the density of passengers in trains, along with suggestions for alternative routes, will improve the management of traffic. Passengers will not be so frightened of succumbing to thrombosis during the rush hour. Accessibility for persons of reduced mobility will improve, with special ramps, reserved lanes and above all, better laid-

out trains. Passengers will not mind lingering in stations featuring retailers and cultural amenities. Some of these stations will be turned into multi-service hubs, featuring libraries, exhibitions, and cultural offerings. Others will be converted into art galleries, laid out like the Stockholm metro to cater to travellers’ physical and psychological comfort. Stations that are multimodal hubs will become the norm. They will ease connections between metros and other means of transport, both vertical (lifts, flying taxis) and horizontal. All hubs will offer parking space for human powered and electric bikes. Traffic management systems will control these exchange nodes, coordinating the various transport fleets. 

2. Bio-inspired stations, to mark a new era

2035 will be the start of a new era. The ecological and energy transition, oft announced, obstructed or delayed, will have finally greened our towns. The metro station will become a symbol of the decarbonised paradigm and the circular economy. 

Designed as a town within the town, it illustrates the ‘cradle to cradle’ process. All materials are recycled and recyclable, and even the functions of the station can be modified in the long term. The station will become the launchpad for the innovative town, booting the new green metro further upstairs. It will contribute to the power-saving effort for the line, using the energy recovered by regenerative braking to power its activity.

Now stations will combine aesthetics, technical quality and high green ambitions. Zero waste will be an integral part of its design and operation. Vegetation will no longer be used as greenwash, but it will offer a shared access to biodiversity in new areas. Bio-inspired stations will also use optimised natural ventilation, to resolve the sensitive problem of particles in stations, and their repercussions on people’s health. Good collective hygiene will be a high-priority requirement. Dematerialised access controls and automated door opening on trains will reduce tactile interaction. Antibacterial materials will be specified in building standards. Bio-inspired stations will be linked to the digital era. The digital footprint of services will be factored into the carbon neutrality calculation.Will there be enough political determination to back such an ambitious transformation?

3. Access and stops, the end of stations

By 2035, the station mall will be firmly established as a cornerstone of the metropolitan area. The growth of this model will mark an even more radical step than the creation of multi-service areas. Underground space will have been transformed following the example of 63,000 sites in Tokyo (of which 40% is connected to the metro) and the famous Montreal RESO, extending over 32 kilometres of tunnel. In Paris, the Hôtel de Ville metro station has set an example by offering direct access to the BHV department store in Rue de Rivoli. The metro moulds itself to match the town it serves. The traditional barriers between urban and 

transport areas will be abolished. Travellers will choose between walking along underground corridors and taking the metro, according to how much time they have to spare. The number of accesses to a single place will question the very concept of the station. Once again, this prospect will raise the major topic of financial investments. Such a project will change the role of underground urban space, independently from the metro to which it owes its existence. Will travellers adapt to it?

The biggest innovations in Metro Rail

1. Digital revolution

Rail is undergoing a digital revolution with the Internet of Things (IoT) enabling on-board sensors to deliver real time analysis and monitoring, spot problems before they cause delays, automate maintenance and ensure the train’s location is always 100% accurate.

2. New steel developments

The tracks themselves are seeing changes, new steel developments have improved strength-to-weight ratios matching even the best titanium alloys and materials like graphene help make materials that are longer lasting, more resilient to extreme weather and better for the environment.

3. Drones for identifying problems

Whilst high above the tracks, drones are already in use in identifying problems, assisting maintenance workers and in providing additional security by offering a view of trespassers or other threats.

4. Virtual reality

Virtual reality is something making a lot of headlines at the moment and is already in use with industry giant Bombardier, including it in their manufacturing process. Overcoming the challenges of cost and time, VR manufacture creates a 3-D model of a product, tests its efficiency virtually and then brings it to market more quickly and economically.

5. Driverless trains

Copenhagen and Dubai are just two metros that operate driverless trains and automation is increasingly the choice for new networks. Why? A driver free network can deliver a deliver a more predictable network, maximise capacity when many metro systems are struggling to match demand and by removing the element of human-error enhance safety and security. Environmental concerns, fears over energy security and the lowering costs of implementation mean that rail is looking at new forms of power.

6. Alternative energy sources

An area of increasing interest is the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as an alternative to diesel to power trains. Already being tested by some railways its advantages are that it offers a competitive price, and lower carbon emissions plus an established regulatory structure when compared to its fossil and renewable fuel rivals.

Urbanization, rapid population growth and climate change concerns are now seeing even regions previously resistant to investing in rail and metro, for example the Middle East, embracing its advantages. These pressures coupled with dynamic innovations like the six listed are making public transport both sustainable and competitive and giving rail and metro a bright and exciting future.

Infrastructures- pushing back the impossible 

Except  for  the  cities  that  recently  came  out  of the ground (on the scale of  industrial civilisation  at  least),  metros  around  the  world  were built  within  the  existing  urban  landscape, which  presented  innumerable  challenges  for the engineers in charge of  the infrastructure. Also,  what  we  take  for  granted—connecting point  A  to  point  B  transparently—sometimes conceals a true headache for  yesterday  and today’s engineers. And  so,  just  recently,  the  city  of  Kolkata launched  enormous  construction  projects  to make  its  East  to  West  metro  line  under  the Hooghly  river  bed.  On  the  surface,  indeed, the  ground  did  not  have  the  required  conditions  for  the  extension  of  the  line—starting with  the  lack  of  space  one  can  imagine  in  a city  with  a  population  of  14  million  people.  In total,  the  underground  section  should  run along  10km,  with  520m  under  the  river  itself. This  is  a  first  for  the  country,  and  should  be finished in 2021. Such  technical  exploits  are  not  new, even  if  for  many  passengers,  they  have  become  part  of  the  landscape.  In  Paris—whose land,  like  all  “historical”  cities,  is  full  of  surprises,  and  holes  —the  Danube  station  is  supported  by  enormous  pillars  of  over  30  meters high  that  are  dug  into  embankments.  Between the  ground  of  the  station  and  this  embankment,  despite  the  pylons,  there  is  emptiness. Who  would  think  of  this  during  their  daily commute? In  recent  construction,  like  the  metro  in Dubai,  other  structural  findings  have  been  put in place. Rather  than turning to  metallic structures  and  rivets  for  the  overground  parts,  like you  can  see  in  New  York,  Paris  and  London, prefabricated  U-shaped  concrete  viaducs have been put in place.  The concrete opens the  way  for  more  bold  and  modern  architecture  that  is  better  integrated  in  the  urban landscape,  and  limits  the  ground  use  (use  of mo-no-piles  as  opposed  to  pairs  of  pillars). Braking is producing.

Station Buildings 

Elevated Station excluding viaduct (Civil work): 

Station is the main activity centre of the metro system which holds a major share in total project cost. Electrical and mechanical items, lift and escalator, auxiliary substation, DG set, Automatic Fare Collection System (AFC), Platform Screen Doors (PSD), Telecommunication system etc. are installed at stations. It is seen that three types of elevated stations viz. type A, B and C have been considered in the cost estimates in the DPRs. The requirement of civil structure for three types of elevated station is more or less the same. The difference is in the 

requirement of signalling, point and crossing. The size of the platform (length x width) also varies from metro to metro. Station layout, simple Entry/Exit and station interior and inter station distance become extremely important from cost point of view. The average inter station distance in the Indian metro system varies from 1 km to about 1.45 km. Station structure is generally of two level viz. concourse level and platform level. The civil cost of a station can be reduced by space optimisation and value engineering. Station rooftop is also utilised for installation of solar panels. 

Elevated station (E&M work including lift and escalator) 

Electrical and Mechanical System at Elevated Stations are broadly divided into three subsystems namely, Electrical System, Fire Alarm, Detection & suppression System and VAC System. The components of electrical systems at elevated stations are Low Voltage(LV) panels, distribution boards, cables and cable containments, wiring and conduiting, lighting systems, earthing system and UPS etc. DG Sets are used to supply power to Essential Loads in case of failure of Power Supply at the station. In addition, Lifts and escalators are also 

provided at each station for the convenience of passengers. It is observed that the cost of lifts and escalators are separately provisioned in DPRs of some projects. Generally, four lifts and four escalators are provided at each elevated station. 

Underground station (Civil work): 

The requirement of electrical and electromechanical equipment of underground stations is different from those for elevated stations. Additional space is required for installation of the Environmental Control System (ECS) and Tunnel Ventilation System (TVS). Moreover, the electrical load of an underground station is about ten times more than that required for an elevated station. In order to accommodate these equipment and systems, the length of the station box for a six coach platform length of 135m to 140 m is taken as 240 m to 265 m. Civil cost of an underground station can be reduced by reducing station box size. After discussion with metro officials, it is concluded that there is ample scope of reduction in station box length by way of space optimisation and relocation of equipment and service rooms. Chennai metro has constructed one underground station of six coach platform length in station box of 150 m length by optimising the utility and service rooms, relocating the machinery and plant, changing orientation of TVS etc. Officials of other metros were also in agreement with the idea of reducing the station box length to about 200 m to 190 m or even less. By doing so, there will be considerable reduction in the civil cost of the underground station due to reduction cost of earth work, concreting and diaphragm wall. With the reduction in length of the station box, there will be a corresponding increase in tunnel length. However, there should be an overall reduction in cost as cost per meter of tunnelling is less than cost per meter of station box.

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