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Tech Mahindra Perspective: Supporting implementation with end-to-end solutions

By Anand Vora, vice president of transportation services (contributor: Jeff Young, executive advisor)

Tech Mahindra (TechM) has been actively supporting the railroad industry for PTC implementation through its end-to-end solutions. As an early adopter in the PTC initiative, we are among a handful of technology vendors in the railroad industry that have delivered services in all PTC segments, i.e. back office, wayside, locomotive and communication.

As the rail industry is moving ahead to implement this technology, a number of challenges have emerged  that may hinder successful or timely implementation by 2018 or 2020. As a product agnostic vendor,  we are uniquely positioned to support railroads to address key challenges around system integration, configuration & change management, Interoperability testing and ongoing helpdesk and operations support.

One of the key challenges for the railroad ecosystem today is the need for short lines and small railroads to implement PTC technology. The challenge lies in the fact that these small railroads are not equipped to handle such a technological advanced implementation with their limited resources and technical knowledge.

TechM with its vast experience can help advice and assist these shortlines implement these complex systems. Our wide range of offerings, from due diligence of the existing systems to our SI capabilities will enable the transition and implementation in a very smooth and cost effective way.
Another major challenge is to ensure that all locomotives have the necessary PTC software version. With frequent upgrades to the onboard software this activity requires repeatable process and troubleshooting skills.

TechM has the expertise and knowledge for configuration management, maintain & monitor the onboard software download process and troubleshoot issues.

As product vendors implement the PTC systems, the need for an independent entity to test and validate the delivery of the systems becomes very critical. We are typically at the juncture where we can provide objective analysis and feedback to product and software suppliers.

TechM with its comprehensive experience in the PTC testing domain is helping railroads to avoid this complicated situation by bringing cost effectiveness through its ability to automate testing. TechM can provide managed “PTC testing as service” to reduce costs and provide “pay per use” testing services.
Since PTC is an ongoing system, sustaining and supporting the PTC system will be a challenge, especially for the short-line railroads. Managing PTC system availability will require a centralized helpdesk center where train crews, dispatchers, communication technicians and signal maintainers can contact to resolve any technical problems which may cause enforcements.

TechM is currently helping railroads in managing their helpdesk and operations. With our experience in managing large helpdesks along with our commitment to provide financial models to lower the operating cost for PTC systems, we can help railroad industry to run uninterrupted PTC systems for a long time to come.

The substantial initial capex cost coupled with the ongoing operating expense costs for PTC system maintenance and likely service interruptions due to system reliability has created considerable concerns regarding the economics of the PTC system. Working with its customers, TechM has initiated an effort to leverage PTC data to deliver value to help improve the economics of the PTC investment. Some areas of potential benefits are using data generated by the PTC system to assist in operational planning, asset management and customer service.