Weary pilgrims, attending the Sunning of the Buddha Festival in the Chinese city of Xining (the capital of Qinghai Province), board the Qinghai-Tibet train for the 26-hour trip home to Lhasa, capital of Tibet Province.
Whilst asleep, the train will be supervised by the railway’s control centre, which displays real-time information on the train’s location, speed, oxygen levels, and electrical system.
The control centre is a partnership between Qinghai-Tibet Railway Bureau and the State Key Laboratory of Rail Traffic Control and Safety, at Beijing Jiaotong University. Together, they have developed a monitoring system for railway operation and safety for the Tibetan line.
Close monitoring is critical as the train ascends from Xining (2,275 metre) to cross a remote Himalayan plateau at 4000 metre altitude, before reaching their destination 1900 kilometers away.
When the railway section between Golumd (the second largest city of Qinghai province) and Lhasa opened in July, it set numerous worldwide engineering records.
Over 960 km of track runs at extreme altitudes, half of it running across permafrost; the world’s highest rail track crosses over Tanggula Pass at 5072 metres. Costing US $4.2 billion, the railway holds the world record for the highest rail tunnel and station and has 675 bridges.
To protect against altitude sickness, passenger cars are pressurised and have supplemental oxygen systems; passengers have to sign a health registration agreement before boarding the train.
Even the train’s diesel motor locomotives are exclusively designed to function at high altitudes. A year since the Qinghai-Tibet Railway opened, it has carried 11 million tons of freight and 2.02 million passengers, with few incidents.
During the railway’s construction, planning engineers were required to design a control centre to receive and display data from various monitoring devices, combining them with data from the railway’s Microsoft and Oracle databases.
They also needed to display photographs and satellite images of the landscape surrounding the tracks to support the emergency response planning and rescue system.
The control system needed to keep railway downtime to the bare minimum, monitor equipment, minimise maintenance needs, and provide detailed records of environmental conditions along the track.
Consultant ESRI China (Beijing) Ltd. used its software to bring all this data together and display it on maps in the control centre. The State Key Laboratory of Rail Traffic Control and Safety, at Beijing Jiaotong University, and the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Bureau jointly developed the web-enabled enterprise GIS.
The main source of data is CAD design data and satellite imagery of the surrounding landscape. The Laboratory collaborated with Leador CO., LTD for a visual record of the track and landscape, including location coordinates for the images.
Leador (a company in WuHan specialising in mobile mapping and survey software) used a survey vehicle equipped with camcorder, camera, GPS, and digital compass to record data.
Extra data comes from a digital elevation model, 3DS Model, and databases created in the ArcGlobe environment.
To resolve high altitude communication and data transmission challenges, a GSM-R cellular phone system was given by Nortel Network and Beijing Xidian and is used to transmit real-time location of moving trains to the control centre.
The command centre fuses real-time monitor information such as the location and speed of the train, amount of staff and passengers, temperature and pressure of the air inside passenger cars, and the electrical system (voltage, current) and displays it on digital maps.
Climate conditions and images along the route are also retrievable. Operators can focus on sections of the track to a predetermined resolution. Message alert icons show on the map with the location of any problems, pointing to the relevant data. Users can browse maps; query and display infrastructure features by location; recover geographic data, photographs, and video; and manage and search for metadata.