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Train Position Locator for Electric Railways

European Union
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Project Acronym
STRIA Roadmaps
Infrastructure (INF)
Transport mode
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Transport policies


Background & Policy context

The results of ongoing rail privatisation in Europe has made it more complex than ever to define in the various user groups in detail - seen from an exploitation (marketing) point of view. The strong and traditional technologically-oriented culture among railway operators is now in the process of being replaced by a more commercial approach, which also leads to changes in organisations and management and the establishment of new business units. At regional level, there has been a shift from national responsibilities to local authorities. In some countries such as the UK, national railway activities have been sold to private franchises. New entrants were encouraged by the EU to become railway enterprises and by doing so, introduce a new entrepreneurial spirit. All these changes require decision makers to define a totally new way of marketing new products and services within the railway sector.

There was a need for state-of-the-art, low frequency battery-less RFID (radio frequency identification) Tag/ Transponder technology to be developed in the TRAPOLO project. This technology is very cheap, needs no maintenance and is reliable,accurate and easy to install. The tag/transponder were used in combination with Reader, Computer, Odometer/ Tachometer, Radio communication and Satellite technologies for positioning of Trains.


The aim of the project was to introduce innovative elements in application areas such as:

  1. The use of low frequency tags/transponders and radio communication for precise positioning of each Train on the electrified railway section, taking into account the actual power frequency used.
  2. The use of a combination of take out from an Odometer or Tachometer and tags placed in the rail infrastructure for positioning of Trains, and as an alternative or supplement, GPS positioning for Trains on identified rails in open country and suburban traffic.
  3. The use of position data and Radio communication for interaction with different signal equipment at railway crossings and other locations.

The project was planned to last 24 months and to comprise the following 4 phases:

Phase 1 - Definition:

The work has involved bringing the participating users together to define user requirement specifications for the TRAPOLO project:

  1. Rail Infrastructure Managers' user requirements with regard to Train positioning and traffic management.
  2. Train Operator user requirements with regard to needs for Fleet management and improved data capture on Train operation.
  3. Public Transport Service Operators' requirements with regard to needs of traffic management, positioning and increasingly reliable information to passengers.

On the basis of the user requirement specifications, the necessary operational requirement specifications has been established by the industrial partners in the project. By the end of the Definition Phase, a Validation plan/Verification manual for the technical development and full-scale demonstrators were established.

Deliverables: User requirement report, Application functionality specifications and Verification manual.

Phase 2 - Development and Building of Prototypes

Applications: Low frequency, battery-less tag technology and readers suitable for use in the railway environmentoperation on electrified traction, have been developed. In addition to the technical development, interfaces and applications have been developed in order to establish interconnections between different technologies as well as inter-operability with existing systems in the railway environment.

Deliverables: Prototypes, Verification report.

Phase 3 - Implementation and Validation:

The project has been implemented on three different railway sites, using traction power, 25kV AC 50 Hz, 15kV AC162/3Hz and 1.5kV DC.

In addition to full-scale test facilities, three studies have been carried out:

  1. A study of the optimal use of RFID Tags in the infrastructure as a supplement or alternative to GPS/differential GPS/GNSS.
  2. A study of the optimal use of combined data captured from RFID Tags in the infrastructure and pulses from Odometer/Tachometer, by calibration techniques.
  3. A study of the possibilities of increasing the level of operational safety by establishment of procedures with a high redundancy level.

The validation included operation of 3 full-scale demonstrators over full 12-month period, in o


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
No fixed leading institution, but current chairmanship is held by the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (until June 2003)


The TRAPOLO system was mainly based on further development of known battery-free, low frequency Tag/Transponder technology, adapted to operation on a frequency less sensitive to EMC in the electrified railway environment.

The TRAPOLO system was expected to bring a higher accuracy than any other technologies in the positioning of Trains, and at significantly lower costs. Compared to existing systems, the TSS TPL (Train Position Locator) has the advantage of being easier to implement and cheaper in operation and maintenance as there is no need for an energy supply or battery support.

The TSS TPL can lead to better utilization of the existing infrastructure, due to the possibilities of upgrading and extension of the density of positioning at low costs.

Based on the User Requirement Analysis, 2 prototypes of main TPL applications were prepared for verification and demonstration; the first one matching the requirements of urban train and/or metros and the second matching the requirements of railway traffic on low traffic lines and sidelines, including matching the requirements for vital/non-vital applications and functionality. The assumption that different requirements can lead to different solutions (based on 2 or more technologies) was verified in depth. With this assumption, 2 types of test sites were required in order to check the behaviour of the possible different demonstrations under real operational conditions.

Market application and exploitation

The necessary investment in the technology, hardware and software used in TRAPOLO as well as in maintenance, showed to be very low compared to other Traffic Management or Train Positioning Locator (TPL) systems known today, therefore making TSS TPL very attractive to operators and/or infrastructure owners on low traffic lines, sidelines or metro and urban train systems. The overall advantage was lower equipment costs and thereby more competitive transport prices for the end-user, whether it was the ticket price for the private customer or the transport fee for freight transport.


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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