A consortium of train operators has installed a pan-European internet protocol virtual private network (IP-VPN) as part of a wider move to open systems.
HIT Rail has linked its 26 computer centres in 15 European countries with an internet-based IP-VPN network called Hermes Open System, at a cost of over £1m.
The group said its previous, eight-year-old network, the X25-based Hermes Plus, was reaching the end of its useful lifespan.
"IP is the dominant protocol at the moment and we've gone for that," said Antonio López, director for network services for HIT Rail.
"We've made a decision to move towards open standards in both network architecture and applications by moving to FTP, for example. It's not an investment so much as the cost of doing business in a modern environment."
The new network, installed by AT&T, is used by operators for country-to-country communication.
It handles reservations, ticketing, track maintenance information and freight tracking, and boasts spare capacity to handle new data services as they are developed. Individual train operators use a separate network for domestic data.
An initial pilot scheme linking two computer centres was carried out in November last year and work started on the full network set-up at the start of January, which was up and running by the end of March.
"Internet-based IP networks aren't hard to set up, and with the amount of experience we've had it took a matter of months to get the system up and running," said Niall Hickey, director of communication for AT&T in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
"Setting up a proprietary system would have taken much longer."
HIT Rail is a private company set up and owned by 15 European railway companies, including the Association of Train Operating Companies in the UK. Its sole purpose is to organise international data and IT projects.
Staff at the group are usually seconded from national train companies.
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