Ansys wins R60m Spoornet order

By Leon Engelbrecht, ITWeb senior writer
Johannesburg, 25 Jan 2007

Spoornet has awarded technology company Ansys Integrated Systems a R60 million order to supply a proprietary automatic vehicle identification (AVI) system.

Ansys director Terry Daka says the system will enable the national rail monopoly to determine the location of its rolling stock in real-time. The system, which links to Spoornet's management information network, consists of 353 trackside readers and master stations at Spoornet's central traffic control centre.

"While our origins may be rooted in the defence industry, we have been involved in the railway industry since 1991. Ansys was the main contractor for the integrated train condition monitoring system, the AVI system for the Spoornet line between the Richard's Bay Coal Terminal and Mpumalanga, and the vehicle identification system on the Orex line between Sishen and Saldanha.

"We have developed a core competence in rail identification systems and currently supply the entire Spoornet fleet with radio frequency identification (RFID) tags and are installing wayside reader systems countrywide," says Daka.

Ansys MD Allan Holloway claims the company's product is peerless. "There is no system like ours on the market. There are other tags and readers on the market, but none that fulfil the Spoornet requirements and none that are integrated into a rail rugged AVI system," he explains.

"The tags and readers we use are from TransCore, a US company, and are extensively used around the world on railways. The local part of the product is the AVI system design and software and of significance is the fact that the system has been proven on the CoalLink (Mpumulanga-Richard's Bay) and Orex (Sishen-Saldana) lines since 1998 and 2003, respectively."

Trackside readers will be installed at predetermined positions along the rail to identify any train passing those positions via the RFID tags on every wagon. Wheel sensors fitted to the tracks are also able to indicate the composition of the train and the wagon types.

Other parameters, which can also be measured, include the date and time, direction, speed, the number of wagons and any possible error conditions.

Ansys will also supply approximately 160 000 RFID tags to be fitted on Spoornet's wagons and locomotives.

A small portion of the RF signal transmitted by a reader energises the tag's circuitry and as a result, no batteries are required in the tag. In addition to giving the tags an extended service life, this feature limits the tag's range and reduces the possibility of cross-reads from nearby tags.