Critical Software Collaborates with Stadler, Thales, Medway and Alpha Trains to Upgrade Railway Signalling System in Portugal

April 14, 2023

In a joint effort, Critical Software, Stadler, Thales, Medway and Alpha Trains are developing a new signalling system for onboard railway equipment that is specifically designed for Portugal. This system will eliminate the need for external dependence and simplify the migration to the European standard.

Critical Software Collaborates With Stadler, Thales, Medway and Alpha Trains

Critical Software, Stadler, Thales, Medway and Alpha Trains will develop their own railway signalling onboard equipment for the Portuguese market, thus leveraging Portugal’s strategic autonomy in this sector. The system, based on an external Convel Specific Transmission Module (STM), will facilitate future upgrades and the opening of the market to new suppliers.

The main objective of the collaboration is to develop an external Convel STM adaptable to any ETCS (European Train Control System) supplier, which will contribute to the correct migration of the system, aligning it with the recommendations of the European Railway Agency (ERA). The trains produced by Stadler and destined for circulation in Portugal will feature an installed ETCS provided by Thales and an external STM developed by Critical Software.  

ETCS is a European standard automatic train protection system (ATP) designed to improve safety and efficiency in railway operations. It was developed by the European Union to establish a common signalling system across Europe. It is gradually being implemented in all countries with the aim of replacing the current incompatible national signalling and control systems (Convel in Portugal), thus creating a single standard.  

The Convel STM is an intermediate transition system, or communication system between ATP system devices, which enables trains with ETCS to run on lines with Convel (national safety systems) which do not have ETCS. Its function is to read information from beacons installed on railway infrastructure and to translate it, integrating the information into the train’s ETCS, which applies and represents it, thereby enabling it to operate in a similar way to Convel.  

Compared to other alternatives, external STM is an adaptive solution to any ETCS provider. Its implementation contributes to the correct migration of the system, it also allows for a greater opening of the signalling market in Portugal, since future ETCS updates will not affect the installed STM and vice versa. This process substantially simplifies the validation or certification of the system. It can even be easily withdrawn when all railway lines have the ETCS installed.  

These and other advantages, including the vertical integration of national technology, were essential in choosing to collaborate with Critical Software, Stadler, Thales Portugal, Medway and Alpha Trains for this innovative project, which marks a significant technological leap for Portugal. 

These technological developments will increase the quality of service and technical support provided by Portuguese operators and extend the availability of this solution to any rolling stock manufacturer or operator in the market. 

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