In recent years, many rapid mass transit agencies have chosen Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) technology to refurbish their signaling system or to equip a new line. CBTC technology is a type of Automatic Train Control (ATC) that allows transit agencies to increase nominal throughput and to improve safety. The main functions of CBTC are described in [1.] and [2.].

This technology can operate without fixed wayside track detectors such as track circuits. However, track circuit equipment continues to be implemented on the tracks and in the equipment rooms. For authorities under the Federal Railroad Administration, current regulations require use of track circuit but the main functional reason is to have a backup system in case of CBTC failure. Most transit agencies decide to include track circuit occupied and vacant status into the CBTC system in order to enhance safety. How to enhance safety and keep train operation efficient during track circuit failure is a challenge for CBTC projects.

This paper discusses the relationship between the CBTC and the conventional interlocking system when track circuit failure occurs. The analysis in this paper applies to both relay and solid state interlocking systems as both technologies have to deal with the same impact under this scenario. The method of detection of track circuit failure by the CBTC system and the possible restrictions on CBTC train operation are not presented. The paper focuses on the interface between the CBTC and the signaling system. It begins by introducing the different types of track circuit failures and their consequences on conventional signaling system to address and compare multiple scenarios. Then, the paper discusses how the CBTC system can affect the conventional signaling system equipment, such as signals and train stops, once it has detected a track circuit failure. Transit agencies’ different possible approaches to manage track circuits failures within the context of an operating CBTC system are explained.

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