These requests will be used to assess both suppliers’ interest and their ability to deliver the equipment and rolling stock required for the Digirail project. It will also raise awareness of the Digirail project among international operators.

The Digirail project will take another step forward when competitive tendering for the first commercial track section (aka the EKA) starts up at the beginning of next year on the route Pori–Rauma–Nokia.

In early autumn, two requests for information were sent about procurements for rolling stock and traffic management systems. They were drawn up by both the Fintraffic Railway Ltd. and Metropolitan Area Rolling Stock Ltd.

The requests aim to determine potential suppliers’ interest and will also assess how suitable suppliers’ offerings are for Digirail’s solutions in a broader sense. The requests are also seeking to increase the visibility of the Digirail project among international operators in particular.

“The requests for information have been directed at a broad range of rail sector suppliers across Europe and Asia, all of whom have some level of experience in providing this kind of equipment. These requests have also enabled us to market Digirail’s unique solutions, which have aroused interest from various parties, such as the organisers of this year’s InnoTrans trade fair, which will be held in Germany in September,” says Ari Tilli, Digirail project’s traffic management specialist

Rolling stock and traffic management offerings to be assessed

Metropolitan Area Rolling Stock Ltd is responsible for requests for information that focus on rolling stock. These will be used to assess the current ability of market suppliers to provide equipment for two Sm5 trainsets and other rolling stock. The trains will be used in Digirail project tests. The equipment will include automatic devices (for example ATO Automatic Train Operation) that will be installed in the test trains in order to test automated driving on the Digirail test track and EKA track. The Digirail project’s requests for information concern traffic management systems. These include components for Traffic Management Systems (TMS), traditional and radio-based safety systems, a test laboratory, general data security and data security services. The requests are also seeking to determine suppliers’ ability to meet the needs of the Digirail project in terms of connections and equipment.

“The EU is adopting a new radio-based FRMCS system (Future Radio Mobile Communication System), which would require the construction of a brand-new network in Finland. As an alternative to this, we want to offer a completely new kind of solution by utilising commercial network connections in the Digirail project. The requests for information will help us to assess suppliers’ development paths and whether they will be able to provide suitable equipment in the future,” says Project Manager Simon Indola.

Requests for information create international awareness of Digirail solutions

Rail traffic is currently being developed very actively and systematically in Europe, and Digirail is bringing these advancements to Finnish railways. In addition to bringing knowledge into Finland, the Digirail project also wants to tell the rest of Europe about Finnish development and innovations.

“Europe’s railways are undergoing major changes, and we want to contribute by bringing new solutions to international rail traffic markets. Using commercial radio networks in traffic management is an excellent example of how the Digirail project is piloting solutions that no one else in the world has implemented. Our goal is to use open interfaces, as this will significantly reduce future costs and increase both transparency and competition. This will increase the safety and quality of rail traffic and offer better service level for passengers,” says Ari Tilli.

The deadlines for the requests for information are in early October, after which separate negotiations will be held with suppliers on the basis of their responses. This will provide a foundation on which to prepare the actual calls for tenders, which will be sent in early 2023. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2024, and testing in 2025. The goal is to use suppliers’ responses to find longer-term partners. It also provides a good opportunity for suppliers to influence the development of Digirail on a broader scale.

“It’s gratifying to see that the requests for information have already aroused interest among international suppliers. This will give us a comprehensive overview of the market situation, and enable us to acquire equipment that both complies with the latest EU regulations and will stand the test of time,” says Tuomo Pietilä, Metropolitan Area Rolling Stock Ltd’s project coordinator.