Pioneering product development for railway safety
190 engineering years of development have reached their goal today, explained Márton Feldmann, Director of Railway Automation at the Hungarian, Prolan Process Control Co., when he presented the safety certification of the PRORIS-H railway safety device to a wide professionals today.
The development has an industrial historical significance, as it is the first time in its 176-year history that a fully Hungarian development will be available that meets all the technological requirements of the time.
6 October 2022.
A decision to develop for over 5 years, employing 60 engineers, is a major decision even for large international companies. The Budakalász based Prolan Process Controll co. in Hungary, that designs and develops industrial automation solutions for utilities and railway companies, has been committed to its own products and systems from the very beginning in 1990. As a result, the company has built up a significant hardware and software development capacity over the past decades and has become a centre of excellence for safety-critical developments at the highest professional level, the so-called SIL4 level. The development activities are complemented by its own electronics production, thereby making its products entirely the result of Hungarian industry, embodying the added value of Hungarian engineering, highly competitive with the portfolio of international companies in terms of both knowledge and pricing.
The aim of modern railway safety equipment is to guarantee the safe and punctual running of trains, to provide data for passenger and customer service systems, and last but not least to support smooth railway operations with diagnostic solutions. Considering the complexity of the railway network and traffic and the highest safety standards, railway signalling is the most challenging and complex task in the field of railway automation.
All together, Prolan's various railway systems now enable traffic management, traffic control and remote control of overhead line energy on more than 2000 km of railway track. The latter systems are also in operation at Turkish and Bulgarian railways. Similarly, Prolan's systems operate the entire Hungarian electricity transmission and most of the distribution network. In addition to highly complex systems, the Group has also achieved significant results in the field of mass-produced appliances: as part of its night-time power system, its appliances can be found in half a million Hungarian households and in more than 70,000 German homes. They also have on-board computers on all Hungarian locomotives and motor trains, and a device for remote monitoring of energy consumption is being installed in the vehicles of the German railways. The Group, now employing 230 people, can well be considered a stronghold of industrial control technology in Hungary.
Despite this background, coming up with its own solution in a market defined by the products of large international companies is still a brave initiative. However, Prolan's objective was very much backed up by the fact that a long-standing need and desire of Hungarian railway professionals could be fulfilled in this way, and the task was therefore an attraction for Hungarian professionals. The purpose and effectiveness of the development,launched in a close partnership with the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, was already known to professionals, having been installed as signalling equipment at Gyál and Babócsa stations over the past two years, followed by the newly built, state-of-the-art East-West Gate container terminal in Fényeslitke.
As announced at the 3rd Conference on Railway Telecommunications and Signalling, organised by the Institute for Transport Sciences (Közlekedéstudományi Egyesület (KTE)), an independent safety assessment report has been granted for this; the PRORIS-H Hybrid Railway Signalling System for Generic Applications. This certificate certifies that the development of the signalling system complies with the requirements of standards MSZ EN 50126:2001, 50128:2011, 50129:2003 and 50159:2011. The assessment was carried out by Certuniv Ltd. and the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, both of which have professional accreditation for such purpose in the European Union, monitoring all steps of the development, its results and its full documentation. This is the first development of this scale in Hungary and the compliance of a new development with these standards has been a completely new path.
The PRORIS hybrid safety system (PRORIS-H) uses conventional signal-catching circuits to implement the track safety control logic, around which an electronic safety interface system (ProSigma) has been created. The control panel is based on the traffic control centre, a key product of Prolan. The development has been financially supported by the Ministry of National Economy in the framework of the Irinyi Plan.
However, Prolan Railway Interlocking System, or PRORIS, is the hallmark of an interlocking product family, the first element of which is the development of PRORIS-H, now in the pipeline. Meanwhile, the development team is already moving on to the next product, PRORIS-E, an electronic interlocking system capable of additional functions and increased complexity. This development is supported by R&D funding from the National Research, Development and Innovation Office (Nemzeti Kutatási, Fejlesztési és Innovációs Hivatal, NKFIH).
These two complementary products could provide a real solution for the Hungarian railways, as the average age of signalling equipment is over 30 years and maintenance is becoming an increasing burden for railway companies. PRORIS railway safety equipment can therefore significantly enhance the efforts of railway infrastructure managers and maintenance technicians with its state-of-the-art diagnostic tools and its design to facilitate the necessary adjustments.
We have been building up significant security system development know-how since 1999, and the newly achieved result is the culmination of over two decades of work - explains Dániel Mráz, CEO of Prolan Process Control Ltd. Founded by the electrical engineers of the department that worked together at the former MMG Automatika Művek state enterprise, Prolan has succeeded over the past three decades. Following the decision of the ownership circle, including the founders and the management, the development of the safety equipment started in 2017, financed by the company from the profits generated and reinvested in previous years, in addition to the tender grants received, recognizing the market demand and the technical advantages that could be achieved through in-house development. The amount committed by Prolan to the development of the safety equipment exceeds HUF 5 billion.