Trains in Netherlands back on track after massive communications outage
Trains in the Netherlands returned to normal operations on Tuesday, after a large portion of train traffic was stopped on Monday afternoon. Delays continued into the evening as trains were slowly allowed to start again. The exact reason for the communications system failure that caused the disturbance is not yet known, with the system considered to be “robust” and “incredibly stable,” broadcaster NOS reported.
"Due to a malfunction in our telephone system, it was not possible for ProRail train traffic control to contact train drivers on Monday afternoon, May 31. Because this is essential for a safe timetable, most of the train traffic had to be shut down," railroad infrastructure firm ProRail said.
It soon became clear that the wireless GSM-R network had collapsed. That stands for Global System for Mobile Communications - Railway, a separate network that is used throughout Europe allowing trains to transmit speed and location data, train engineers to communicate with signalers and dispatchers, and between staff members on the same train.
It is a system based on 3G mobile phone technology, developed specifically for the railways in the 1990s, according to Toon Norp, an expert in the field at research agency TNO. "Like the police and the fire service, the railways also have a network that is made for a specific application."
According to Coen van Kranenburg of ProRail, this communication network is "more robust" than telephony. Van Kranenburg explained that while brief interruptions can sometimes occur, he has never experienced such a major failure before. "It is an incredibly stable network, with which there are rarely problems and which rarely breaks down."
Another major failure is unlikely in the short term, according to Van Kranenburg.