Railway Strategies Magazine November 2013

Strong lines of communication

Investment into both new and existing skill sets enables ADComms to take on more of the UK rail telecommunications market

Although the technologies around it have changed rapidly, ADComms has been a consistent force in the telecommunications sector for over 20 years. With a specific focus on the transportation and mobile telecoms sectors, ADComms Communications specialises in providing end-to-end telecoms-based services across a range of applications.

Within the rail sector the company has a successful track record of delivering solutions for Network Rail, including the Fixed Telecommunications Network (FTN) and Global System for Mobile Communications – Railway (GSMR) programmes. To date this has been focused on fixed trackside infrastructure but increasingly is widening to communications onboard the rolling stock.

ADComms has been an accredited Principal Contractor for Network Rail since 2004, and have Link-Up approval covering a wide range of telecoms. “Rail is a very complex and challenging environment and the implications of not completing on time can have serious repercussions. We pride ourselves on having quality engineers that see a project through, and as an organisation we have seen our relationship with Network Rail evolve to become more collaborative,” explains business development director Mark Weller.

This relationship was one of the things that attracted the current owners to the business, culminating in its acquisition from the ADComms Group in 2011. It was at this point the company began trading as ADComms Communications. Elaborating on the other strong features of the company Mark says: “The reputation the company has earnt from many years of working on Network Rail’s telecoms has been consistently supported by the excellent engineering skill sets displayed within the business. These skills are built up from many years of operating within the rail and mobile network telecoms markets.

“Recent focus has been on expanding and broadening our engineers’ skills sets through ongoing training and development. Not only have we enhanced and honed current skill sets but we have developed further capabilities such as working in a radio frequency (RF) environment. This enables us to deliver more of an end-to-end telecoms offering to the industry, responding very much to the industry trend of collaborative working relationships”

Staff training has in part been facilitated by Regional Growth Funding (RGF) awarded to ADComms which provided a catalyst for a new wave of training and recruitment, specifically in the field of RF. “The biggest project we have completed so far using those skill sets has been the work to provide GSMR coverage to the Mersey Rail underground network. To this end we designed a new Leaky Feeder infrastructure system, which is based on proven technology which provides excellent reliability,” explains Mark.

He continues: “As well as the creation of 21 new jobs, support from RGF also includes the development of new RF products and services such as a rapid deployment mast for in-field GSMR coverage. This unique product has registered IP and requires no possessions, dramatically reducing track side deployment time and cost. We are also developing battery lifting and moving systems that will allow us to change batteries quickly and safely in the GSMR and FTN networks.”

In its quest to ever improve its offering to the market ADComms acquired Rail Order Ltd, a supplier of products and consumables to train operating companies in March 2013. “Previously our core customer base has been Network Rail and Tier 1 companies working across telecoms and signalling schemes,” notes Mark. “As signalling moves from trackside to information systems in the driver cab on every train through the introduction of ERTMS we needed to develop a relationship with the TOCs and ROSCOs, which Rail Order provides us with. Our focus over the coming period is to ensure that we have a broad set of skills applicable for the deployment of ERTMS so we can offer a seamless solution.”

Opportunities to widen ADCommss’ skill sets have arisen as Network Rail begins the transition into Control Period 5, which is already earmarked for significant investment. At present ADComms is engaged in a number of projects including radio testing for the GSMR network of the new Borders Railway between Galashiels and Edinburgh.

Likewise the company is commissioning the last 1200 GSMR sites North of the Wash in a programme that at present is ahead of schedule, and was recently commended at the National Rail Awards for Partnering Approach with Network Rail on the Salisbury to Exeter Signalling Re-control project. Bringing this right up to date, the Rail Order business won the Small Scale Project at the Railway Industry Innovation Awards in June 2013, for their unique environmental friendly trains wash plant facility.

“Another focus for 2013 is supporting Network Rail’s legacy telecom network. These systems, although older, are still reliable and remain a focal point of Network Rail’s mission critical network. So whilst upgrades such as 4G are of interest, before this can be fully deployed (with all of its advantages), Network Rail need to ensure that existing technology is reliable and robust. For us the concentration for 2013 onwards lies with increasing our skills to cover the IP upgrade path,” concludes Mark.



Installing Confidence