German-Mexican exchange on best practices for railway systems


In the initial three workshops of the series “Quality Infrastructure in railway systems: experiences in Mexico and Germany”, experts exchanged their key strategies, best practices as well as views on cutting-edge technologies. Topics included railway infrastructure, rolling stock, signalling and control systems. The aim of the workshops is to identify opportunities for the harmonisation of Mexican technical regulations and standards with international standards. This will help to improve the quality and safety of rail transport in Mexico.

Screenshot image of the first workshop on railway infrastructure
Experts exchanged experiences and best practices regarding railway infrastructure in the first workshop. © GPQI-GIZ

The first workshop addressed railway infrastructure

The inaugural event of the workshop series on 12 October 2021 focused on railway infrastructure. As an introduction, Luis Borbolla, Mario González and Carlos Espinoza from Grupo Indi gave an insight into the regulatory framework of the Mexican railway service. They explained how the national railway infrastructure is organised and presented opportunities to improve it. Borbolla stressed that technical regulation is fundamental as it establishes requirements and the mechanisms to verify compliance.


From the German and European perspective, Jorge Rios from Deutsche Bahn (DB) presented common challenges for developing railway infrastructure projects. These include the balance between short- and long-term objectives, interoperability, clear roles and responsibilities within the rail transport value chain as well as the definition of track access charges. He also presented methods for financial sustainability in the operation of railway infrastructure.


Oscar Sander and Bernhard Höger from DB explained how the German railway system is structured. They highlighted the advantages of modern and innovative construction methods for complex railway systems. Detailed planning and design of new infrastructure and its construction process are especially relevant. “A good regulation of the railway system is important to guarantee safety”, concluded Höger. Arnoldo Lanzarin from Grupo GCL agreed that comprehensive strategic planning is key for a successful infrastructure project. Lanzarin pointed out that the legal and regulatory framework must be strengthened to consider both passenger and cargo transport. In this way, the safety of mixed operations can be improved.


To conclude, Dr David Camacho from the Mexican Regulatory Agency for Rail Transport stated that the workshop series helps to identify regulatory and conformity assessment needs. The overarching goal is that quality infrastructure enables optimal use of railway infrastructure.


Screenshot image presentation on monitoring methods for rails
Rolando Valle explained the different methods for rail monitoring. © GPQI-GIZ

Second workshop about rolling stock

The second workshop took place on 23 November 2021. Carsten Puls (DB) presented the social, economic and technical factors for the selection of rolling stock. Rolando Valle from the Línea 4 Project of the Light Rail in Guadalajara addressed how rolling stock and railway infrastructure in Mexico is maintained. Valle highlighted that maintenance begins with the development of operational, technical, functional and regulatory specifications. Therefore, maintenance specialists must be involved as early as the definition of technical specifications.


Screenshot image presentation on railway energy efficiency
Carsten Puls highlighted the energy efficiency of rail transport in comparison to other types of land transportation. © GPQI-GIZ

Jorge Ríos and Damian Albuerne from DB presented international best practices for the acquisition of rolling stock. They also informed about the environmental impact of smart rolling stock, such as electric and hydrogen-powered trains. Puls pointed out that rail transport is one of the most energy-efficient means of transport. It can play an important role in protecting the climate. The speakers emphasised that mobility must focus on the users to be successful.


Third workshop: Focus on signalling and control systems

In the third workshop on 15 February 2022, John Orozco (DB) described the origins and evolution of signalling and control systems. In addition, he explained the basic infrastructure of wayside and on-board signalling equipment required for the optimal and safe functioning of railway systems.


Ríos illustrated the roles of the railway system’s main actors – operators, manufacturers and regulatory bodies – and how they interact. He stressed the role of standardisation: It supports the efficient cooperation between the different actors. For example, the European standard EN 50126 “Specification and Demonstration of Reliability, Availability, Maintainability and Safety (RAMS)” is applicable to the whole railway system. Specifically for the railway signalling system, Ríos highlighted the standards EN 50128 for software, EN 50129 for safety-related electronic systems and EN 50159 for safety-related communication in transmission systems.


Martin Castro and David Celestino from Siemens presented the train control systems and safety level used in the United States – Positive Train Control (PTC), Advanced Civil Speed Enforcement System (ACSES) and AREMA – vis-à-vis the European Train Control System (ETCS) and CENELEC European safety levels.


Picture of the speakers in the third workshop on signalling and control systems
Experts shared their perspectives on future adjustments to signalling systems. © GPQI-GIZ

Daniel Nottarp (TÜV Rheinland) outlined the signalling systems used in Mexico. He described the role of an Independent Safety Assessor (ISA), such as TÜV Rheinland. An ISA carries out conformity assessment in the safety and quality management process. They also evaluate compliance with product and safety requirements.


The workshop participants agreed that it is key to consider international best practices and experiences when developing local technical regulations and standards. International experiences can also help to decide which signalling and control systems to implement in Mexico. All relevant stakeholders should be involved in the process. The experts advised strengthening the capacities of conformity assessment bodies. In this way, compliance with regulations can be ensured.


What’s next?

The next workshops in the series will address (4) operation, (5) conformity assessment and surveillance, (6) risks and railway accidents as well as (7) environmental management. The dates will be announced on GPQI’s LinkedIn page and website.

Within the framework of the German-Mexican Dialogue on Quality Infrastructure, this workshop series is jointly organised with Mexico’s Regulatory Agency for Rail Transport (Agencia Reguladora del Transporte Ferroviario – ARTF), TÜV Rheinland, Deutsche Bahn and Siemens.

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