Neil Popplewell


RCS Australia Rail Control Systems

The evolution of level crossing control systems


  • New level crossing concept to increase safety, reliability and cost effectiveness of level crossing control throughout Australia
  • Intelligent level crossing solution using a CENELEC SIL 4 HIMA F35 PLC and the Frauscher Advanced Counter FAdC
  • Maximum flexibility in architecture and the use of the Frauscher Safe Ethernet FSE software protocol, including hardwired as well as Wi-Fi strike in points


When considering what is the “standard” active level crossing arrangement used in New South Wales (NSW), not a great deal has changed on the technology of the control system in a significant time. Early active systems used simple DC track circuits for train detection with shelf-mounted relays performing the control of the flashing lights, barrier machines and bell. This system has evolved to utilise BR930 series plug in relays in lieu of the shelf mounted type, with installations still relying upon DC track circuits for train detection – many being solar powered to reduce installation costs. The next significant innovation was the introduction of the grade predictor system – where the train detection and control system were managed from within a single SIL4 system utilising audio-frequency track circuits. It was not until the acceptance of the axle counter train detection systems that level crossings in regional locations could be unshackled from the risks associated with poor wheel to rail contact.

More recently we have been working systematically to implement new technology that will retain a SIL4 safety reliability rating and enable a reduction in the installation and ongoing maintenance costs. A collaborative effort has taken place between John Holland Rail within the NSW Country Regional Network and Rail Control Systems to integrate axle counter technology with a modern solid state control system – the result is the FAdC R2 and HIMA level crossing control system.

During October 2016 a trial system just outside Bathurst in NSW was commissioned. This site’s equipment is completely isolated from the live railway, save the axle counter system that counts every train that passes the location. This system takes advantage of the Safe Ethernet protocol which allows the HIMA F35 to communicate directly with the FAdC R2 COM AdC module, allowing greater system functionality and more detailed logging to be achieved.

The system is more tolerant to certain types of equipment failure or interference by unknown third parties – allowing normal operation of the level crossing warning equipment at the site for approaching trains. The system is also able to tolerate a local method of working where hi-rail vehicles may mount the track at the level crossing and depart the site. Under current axle counter systems sections would be left disturbed, thus requiring a manual system reset – the HIMA system can be programmed to recognise this movement and suppress the operation of the level crossing warning equipment whilst monitoring and logging the wheel counts within the system.


Popplewell 2015

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