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Network Rail and Signalling Info

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Network Rail and Signalling Info

Unread postby JeffG » Fri Aug 5, 2016 12:41 pm

Now that Network Rail is subject to FOI requests, I found this site:

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/body/network_rail

which allows you to easily make requests. I have also noticed a lot of people making requests for detailed track and signal plans, and almost every one is denied, based on the exemption 31(1)(a) 'the prevention or detection of crime' or asking for things like 'can I have the diagrams for the entire ECML plz?' :)
I think it's a long stretch, but it would seem they're trying to figure out what exactly the security implications would be, and they're using that as a stopgap.

I tried a few years back to find out if I could get electronic copies of some NR standards, as the only other way was to buy them from commercial suppliers, but they're priced as if you're a large company working on a large project, I would only be interested in signal layout design\panel stuff...
Anyway, the answer I got was no one from the relevant teams had the time or resources.

If you make an FOI request, they legally have to spend time and money looking for your information, tell you if they have it or not, and either release it, or give a valid reason for denying it. (Up to 450 pounds).

So I got to thinking, What if some sort of user group was formed? Some sort of online repository, where you had to register with real names and addresses, photo ID etc, that Network Rail could actually release things to, with some sort of document security, and all under a restrictive non-commercial license? Some sort of request form, for plans, etc...

Something NR could direct people to when they make FOI requests would save them a lot of money and resources...
I could see some sort of access fee or donation, either to the group to cover server costs, or maybe even a charitable donation somewhere.
Last edited by JeffG on Mon Aug 8, 2016 2:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Freedom of Information, Network Rail and Signalling Info

Unread postby John Webb » Fri Aug 5, 2016 4:02 pm

With the advent of Real Time Trains and other like websites, is there a need for NR to release detailed information?

What would concern me is the complete loss of information on arrangements that had existed as the remaining manual boxes and PSBs are closed down over the coming years as signalling is moved over to the ROCs. I hope the information, for the benefit of modellers, historians and the like, will be properly archived either with the National Archives or the NRM.
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Re: Freedom of Information, Network Rail and Signalling Info

Unread postby JeffG » Fri Aug 5, 2016 8:27 pm

Those websites only have the most basic data, describer berths, timetables, stepping...

Right now they're rejecting any data beyond that. The only thing I've seen them give are gradients.

NX Panel layout drawing? Nope, it's somehow a security risk!

I'm trying to make a computer simulation of a signal box, but finding the things like track circuit lengths, aspect charts etc
is almost impossible. It usually comes down to either having that kind of info from working in the industry, or knowing someone
who does, which can be sort of a grey area... I am neither, and since I live some 5000km from the NRM, unlikely to be visiting soon :)

They certainly have no *need* to release that kind of data, but I figured it was a win-win situation, interested people get information, NR saves money and time, and avoids
any 'security' issues.
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Re: Freedom of Information, Network Rail and Signalling Info

Unread postby John Webb » Sat Aug 6, 2016 10:13 am

JeffG wrote:........I'm trying to make a computer simulation of a signal box, but finding the things like track circuit lengths, aspect charts etc is almost impossible. It usually comes down to either having that kind of info from working in the industry, or knowing someone who does, which can be sort of a grey area... I am neither, and since I live some 5000km from the NRM, unlikely to be visiting soon :).......

Fair enough. Are you trying to model a specific location, or just want to make up something 'typical' - I assume of an N-X panel? There are a number of collections of photos of such panels in various locations, some posted by members of this Forum, which may assist you.
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Re: Freedom of Information, Network Rail and Signalling Info

Unread postby JeffG » Sat Aug 6, 2016 11:03 am

I'm just trying to find a reasonably complete set of data for any location, so I have a baseline data model of the interlocking, so I can build a panel against. (IECCish actually, easier to draw, I like NX tiles, they're next!) But if I don't have details about how long sections are, route locking, all the little details, it wouldn't even be close to realistic.

There are only a few realistic signalbox simulators, and none of them allow you to make your own :)
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Re: Freedom of Information, Network Rail and Signalling Info

Unread postby Frank » Sat Aug 6, 2016 10:16 pm

Hello JeffG,

But if I don't have details about how long sections are, route locking, all the little details, it wouldn't even be close to realistic.


In the most cases that is not usefull for Playing a Signal Box Simulation only.
Note that you must program every Train move,shunting move, Loco move etc.with every possible route of the Box.
Also the Programming of the locking register etc. etc.

So a simplify version is much better for playing (and for searching of errors 8) ).

Take a look at
http://www.stellwerksim.de
this is a website with online-gaming german type Signal boxes in simply construction.But the programming and testing there takes months for a Box until it works properly.


regards

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Re: Freedom of Information, Network Rail and Signalling Info

Unread postby JeffG » Sun Aug 7, 2016 12:13 pm

It all depends on whether you want to play a game, or a simulation.

I'd rather have as much realism as possible, and be able to automate\turn off some features for new players than
make a game where the trains and signals might as well be traffic lights and cars for all it resembles working an actual box.

Getting way off topic here :D
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Re: Freedom of Information, Network Rail and Signalling Info

Unread postby Frank » Sun Aug 7, 2016 4:02 pm

Hello JeffG,

It all depends on whether you want to play a game, or a simulation.


What`s the difference ? :)

When you look at a modern computer interlocking Desk
http://www.deutschebahn.com/presse/dues ... n_NRW.html

Here as Video one from the Desktop for Hannover Hbf
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=immqY8rdocQ

8 Monitors are the Standard Equipment for the Workplace of a Signal man,here in Hannover Hbf there are 2 more.The upper one in the right is the
Monitor for all incoming Lines an the lower one is for the Bahnhofsfahrordnung (internal Time Table).
Note that the Signal man has his Workplace in a Bureau-Building (Signalling Centre) and no view to the real Platform and Tracks at the Hbf.
In Therory all could run automatically, but even there the Signal man end his shift after 4 Hours and change to another Workplace with lower
Traffic.In Practice the change is often after 3 Hours, because of Delays etc.

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Re: Freedom of Information, Network Rail and Signalling Info

Unread postby JeffG » Sun Aug 7, 2016 5:54 pm

The displays only has the information the signalman need to do his job. They're not to scale. A block section of track close to a station will generally be much shorter physically
than a section out in the country which can be miles long, but appear the same length on the display. How about overlaps? I've only seen them on SimSig, and they make a difference when routing trains into platforms. If you set a route, the system running that display has to go through all sorts of check to see if that route is possible, including
whether track circuits in that route are occupied.

I made something quick, and just made all the trains and track sections all generic and the same length, then I'd consider that a game.

Now image a long stretch of track, with long block sections, with a upwards gradient, towards a goods loop.
Now image a class 6 freight struggling up the incline followed by a HST (bad regulating I know)

If it were realistic, the freight would take a lot longer to make it to the loop, the overlap for the loop exit signal might run onto the mainline, making the HST even later.
If it were a much simpler game, and the only difference between the train was it's label, they've both be running at the same arbitrary speed, you wouldn't need to loop
the 'freight' in the first place.

SimSig Carlise is a great example of this, you have to make decisions on whether to loop a train, train speed, loop length all factor into it.
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Re: Freedom of Information, Network Rail and Signalling Info

Unread postby John Webb » Sun Aug 7, 2016 7:49 pm

The PC Rail series of simulations do include different train speeds, overlaps etc, and also make available development tools for people to produce their own simulations - see http://www.pcrail.co.uk/develop/index.htm for information.

But you still need the basic information to start with, of course! If you can go back just a little in time, you may find that the Signalling Record Society holds this sort of information - I'm not a member so I'm not certain on this point.

Train speeds can be derived from documents such as Working Time Tables or the 'Point to Point' timings that have been published and which can often be bought second-hand from specialist railway bookshops. Indeed, this is what we did to set up the simulations we run at St Albans South signal box. But we did have the advantage of knowing our track circuit details from documentation and other sources available to us.

By the way, would it be more appropriate to move this topic across to the "Model Railway/Simulator" section of the Forum?
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Re: Freedom of Information, Network Rail and Signalling Info

Unread postby JeffG » Sun Aug 7, 2016 9:21 pm

Actually, PC-Rail doesn't have overlaps, or level crossings, or any sort of train AI, though there mechanical boxes are decent.
(I had a long obsessive rant about these sort of thing years ago, take a look if you need help falling asleep :D
https://www.scribd.com/document/20573637/Signaller-Manifesto)

I'd rather buy SimSigs though.

I am thinking about joining the SRS, but there focus is towards the older lever spectrum, which I'd like to be able to do someday.

It's frustrating. I have no way of physically acquiring any plans or charts (save mailing them here) it usually comes down to who you know, and that's not a reliable way to find out anything, and can be problematic for everyone.

I tried a few years back, to try and get some documentation but was dismissed as 'the relevant teams had no time or resources'

So I thought I'd come out with another way, and was trying to get feedback.

You can move it if you want, but I don't think I have much to add that I haven't already....
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Re: Freedom of Information, Network Rail and Signalling Info

Unread postby Frank » Sun Aug 7, 2016 9:40 pm

Hello JeffG,

you trapped in 8)

The displays only has the information the signalman need to do his job

But the Signal man had to know the real Status of the Tracks etc.

. How about overlaps?

Without Education a man from the Street could not handle that.Short or long, overlap the overlap etc. for that you need the Training of a real Signal man.


If it were realistic, the freight would take a lot longer to make it to the loop, the overlap for the loop exit signal might run onto the mainline, making the HST even later.

ohh, that is so in Stelllwerksim

But you alos have the usual Day Work...........Point Failure......Track work Signal Lamps off etc.
If you have a One to One Simulation, this hold you up and for most People it makes such Simulation Yawning.

In Real Live you get pay for waiting.....in a Simaulation you click the X in the upper right corner of the Monitor.....
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Re: Freedom of Information, Network Rail and Signalling Info

Unread postby Andrew Waugh » Mon Aug 8, 2016 1:42 am

JeffG wrote:NX Panel layout drawing? Nope, it's somehow a security risk!


As my day job is in the records policy area, albeit in Australia, I thought I'd comment on this.

Sadly, we live in a world where there are real threats to people. And the area of our interest, signalling, is largely about keeping people safe. Signalling systems are consequently a legitimate security concern. My feeling is that it will become harder, not easier, to study modern signalling systems as time passes. This is one reason why the focus of my interest is shifting to historical signalling.

FOI officers are clerks, not subject matter experts. They have training in FOI law, have a manual, know the precedents, and can crank the handle of the FOI process. They have no idea about what a signalling drawing even shows. Signalling engineers do understand what the drawing shows, but are not experts in FOI. Neither the FOI clerks or the signalling engineers are experts in security. They do not have the training or experience to judge how a drawing could be used to mount an attack. But the FOI clerk and signalling engineer will be held accountable if a drawing is released and it is used to mount an attack. This leads to conservative decision making.

On a less generous note. As you observe, the FOI process is expensive. It takes time (read pounds) to merely find the relevant information, let alone decide whether it is innocuous or note. Then it takes more time (more pounds) to redact the information. Redaction can range from removing genuinely sensitive information to removing the initials of the staff who prepared the drawing (for privacy reasons). Finally, a copy needs to be produced and sent to you. It's much easier and cheaper to simply deny access. It's even easier (cheaper) if a decision has already been made about a particular class of drawings.

If you see that a class of information has already been refused, there is no point in asking for an example of that class - unless you are prepared to go through the appeal process. On the other hand, if an example has already been released, this is also a precedent. This is the value of sites like whatdotheyknow.

If you really think that a particular type of drawing has been wrongly withheld, there is always the appeals process. Be aware though, that none of the parties involved (FOI officers, signal engineers, appeals board, or you) have any real basis for understanding the risk of a drawing. Again, this is likely to result in a conservative outcome.

As for the particular type of drawing mentioned, panel layouts, I'd suspect that the main concern would be the level crossing CCTV screens. FOI officers have manuals giving the types of information not to be released, and information about CCTV systems is invariably on the list. CCTV is a button pusher, as it is almost always used for security surveillance. This is why you can take pictures at stations, but not of CCTV equipment at stations. The fact that level crossing CCTV screens are not used for surveillance is largely irrelevant - see my earlier comments about knowledge and cost. Arguing against the manual is an uphill battle.

My suggestion would be to ask for drawings of installations that no longer exist. Ideally, the whole line would be closed and removed. Make sure you emphasise this point in the FOI request. Your request may still be rejected due to 1) the manual makes no distinction between in-service and out-of-service installations, 2) the drawings no longer exist/are too hard to find, 3) knowledge of one installation (even removed) will give you information about in-service installations, or 4) no-one will have any knowledge to judge your claim that the installation no longer exists.
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Re: Freedom of Information, Network Rail and Signalling Info

Unread postby JeffG » Mon Aug 8, 2016 8:38 am

Excellent post, Andrew!

In theory, you could use just about anything to cause harm, and you are isupposed to demonstrate that the particular information would almost certainly cause some specific harm, and that the releasing the information would directly cause that harm. In the discussion I've had here and elsewhere, The only concrete threat I've seen some suggested is that wire thieves would know where the good wires are, if detailed wiring diagrams were available. I'm not personally interested in the actual wires and bolts. Detailed wiring diagrams aren't much use or interested to a modeler though.

Recent requests have indicated that they are currently reviewing what the security implications are, and that everything will be refused until then. Not that I was planning to do so, not much point at the moment. There doesn't seem to be any distinction. I also have the feeling that they're not particularly interested in releasing information regardless of any security concerns.

Their must be some sort of distinction made for the cctv monitors in panels, as I've seen plenty of pictures, including the controls in pictures, from people on sanctioned box visits.

I'm wondering if it's worthwhile try to contact someone and ask what specific concerns they have, but I'm worried that they can just cite security on that too...

If I was working for them, none of this would be an issue, redaction wouldn't be necessary etc, but there's no middle ground, no process I can follow...

The problem with FOI requests is that only option to release anything is to the public domain.
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Re: Freedom of Information, Network Rail and Signalling Info

Unread postby JeffG » Mon Aug 8, 2016 8:57 am

Just to clarify:

FOI is not the correct avenue to go down to get research material. That's not the purpose.

I've never seriously considered it personally, but some people are using it either as a convenience, or a way to force NR to release information.

I'm simply trying to figure out an alternative method that doesn't involve FOI, or unofficial channels.
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