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Old January 21st 19, 10:53 AM posted to uk.railway,
Clive Page[_3_] Clive Page[_3_] is offline
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First recorded activity at LondonBanter: Jun 2009
Posts: 159
Default When the software meets the hardware

On 21/01/2019 10:02, Recliner wrote:
Engineers commissioning the new generation of software-enabled trains are
facing the problem that pretty well every system, and even sub-system, on
their train is computer controlled with its own software. This also has to
interface with the train’s third party software based systems.

I travel quite often on the new-fangled Siemens class 700 trains on Thameslink, which are fitted with passenger information screens at intervals in each carriage. Almost every day I travel I'm on a train where some or all of these screens fail, most often going completely blank part-way through the journey. Sometimes the screens spring back to life at City Thameslink or Farringdon when the power source is changed and I guess some parts of the system are rebooted, but not always. I wonder if the train companies are even aware of these problems - there's no obvious way of reporting them.

I was surprised that in most cases when the screens ail the audio announcements of stations continues as normal. I had assumed that the simplest way of providing audio and visual information was to generate them from the same system, but obviously they have at least partially duplicated things.

Modern buses are similarly afflicted: the Arriva 321 bus service (Luton - Watford) until recently had on-board screens giving information on the next stop, as well as audible announcements. That was at times very useful, especially for those travelling at night on unfamiliar routes. These were obviously not generated by a single system as on many bus journeys I found that the audio and video displays were exactly one bus stop out - which was very confusing. I see that ArrivaBus have now solved the problem by switching both systems off, so while the screens are still there, there is no no passenger information at all (unless you speak to the driver).

For example, during a recent run in a Great Western Railway Class 800 the
Universal Access Toilet was all lit up, but the door had lost power and
wouldn’t lock. When I reported this failure to a member of the on-board
staff, she replied that it was a common issue and the toilet needed

Lest you think that this is just a case of hide-bound traction and rolling
stock engineers unable to cope with new fangled technology, in the column I
quote the Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter comparison.

Its software has been released in ‘blocks’. The latest block, which will
meet the full military specification, took over 30 iterations of the
software to implement. According to Arriva Rail London, the software for
the Bombardier Class 710 Aventra, which has yet to enter service, has
reached Version 27.

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