Wuhan Uses Cloud Technologies to Accelerate Smart Urban Rail Construction
Wuhan is the sprawling capital of Hubei Province, China, and a prominent commercial center due to its strategic location on the Yangtze and Han rivers. For more than a decade, its rapid transit system, Wuhan Metro, has been making history, and growing its network from a single rail line into a very effective multi-line system spanning the entire city. The first phase of Wuhan Metro Line 1, which was a ten-station long elevated line stretching 10.2 kilometers, entered service on July 28, 2004. On December 26, 2021, Wuhan Metro Line 5, the second phase of Line 6, and Line 16 became operational. This marked the achievement of full metro coverage across all districts in Wuhan. With a network that is now 460 kilometers long, Wuhan Metro has earned its place among the best and longest metro systems in the world.
The metro system has become an essential part of everyone's daily lives in Wuhan. From 2012 to 2021, Wuhan Metro safely transported 6.819 billion passengers, and in 2021, more than half of the journeys made using public transportation involved the metro. Wuhan Metro Group (WMG), the owner of Wuhan Metro, continues to invest in developing the city's metro system and cementing its world-class reputation. To satisfy growing demand and a wider variety of user needs, it has been exploring the construction of smart rail transit systems and has actively embraced innovative technologies such as urban rail cloud and 5G. Wuhan Metro has recently teamed up with Huawei to build a smart mobility solution that will address public transportation, safety, and health requirements and to deliver a better transportation experience for passengers.
On May 14, 2020, WMG and Huawei signed a strategic cooperation agreement to promote the application of new ICTs — such as 5G, big data, IoT, AI, and cloud computing — on Wuhan Metro. Together, they aimed to build a secure and reliable digital foundation which would further promote the development of Wuhan Metro. WMG and Huawei developed China's first urban rail cloud on the multi-rail-line network, and in doing so, made Wuhan a model city showcasing high-quality public transportation.
Every newly built metro line usually has more than 20 service systems, each of which constructs their ICT systems independently. This leads to high construction costs, a low resource utilization of less than 50%, and numerous data silos. In addition, the countless ICT devices take up a lot of space in metro stations, and these urgently require centralized planning and intensive construction to avoid repeated investment and resource waste.
The deployment of the Wuhan Urban Rail Cloud Project has laid a solid foundation for the construction of smart urban rail systems in Wuhan. As a result of this project, WMG has managed to remove the traditional siloed architecture, reduce repeated investment, and halve the cost of constructing station equipment rooms for newly built lines. WMG has eliminated data silos and is now able to securely share service data across the group. This has helped it reduce its labor force by over 10% and improve IT resource utilization by approximately 50%, and has also provided a basis for data standardization, mining, and analysis. Thanks to the cloud platform and big data sharing platform, the Wuhan Urban Rail Cloud Project will be able to provide strong support for the development of smart urban rail services in the future.
As the urban rail cloud was being constructed, Wuhan Metro also actively adopted new connectivity technologies — such as 5G, big data, and AI — in train-to-ground wireless communications, smart mobility, and smart O&M, and this improved operational efficiency, passenger experience, and the reliability of security assurance.
In 2020, Wuhan Metro took the lead in establishing a 5G-Powered Smart Urban Rail Joint Innovation Lab with China Mobile and Huawei, with the aim to promote full 5G coverage on Wuhan Metro trains and bring Wuhan Metro into the 5G era. The 5G-Powered Smart Urban Rail Joint Innovation Lab is focused on developing scenario-based solutions to meet metro service requirements. It connects environmental data and operations services, and supports upper-layer smart applications. By the end of 2021, 5G network coverage was available on all 11 lines of the Wuhan Metro.
Using the 5G private network and slicing solution, the 5G Joint Innovation Lab completed the verification of integrated bearers of CBTC/PIS/TCMS services, emergency video intercom, and 5G trunking in 2021. Based on the previous lab verification results, Wuhan Metro became the first metro system in the world to deploy a 4.9 GHz EasyMacro private network in 2023, alongside 5G trunking services. It provisioned networks and optimized tests for the first section, as well as verifying critical applications such as trial running and network and service commissioning. As a result, the track uplink rate reached 101 Mbit/s, while the downlink rate hit 1067 Mbit/s. In addition, HD video calls made based on 5G trunking are smooth and clear, and do not have jitters.
Looking ahead, Wuhan Metro will continue to innovate and implement remote train driving, obstacle detection system, fully automatic operation (FAO), and 5G positioning. The development of the 5G application demonstration projects mentioned above will unlock unlimited space and possibilities for rail transportation. The use of innovative technologies will also showcase Wuhan Metro as a model for smart rail construction across China. By fully maximizing the benefits of the joint innovation lab as the main engine for service innovation, Wuhan Metro will ultimately transform its operations into businesses, and drive the evolution of future smart urban rail services and smart mobility.
Smart security will play an increasingly important role as the number of passengers skyrockets. Wuhan Metro has teamed up with Huawei to develop a smart mobility solution that integrates various scenarios such as passenger registration and identification, smart security checks, and smart access, in order to support safe, contactless travel. This solution offers more advanced versions of existing applications and facilitates the seamless and intelligent construction of a credit-based urban rail transit, which will significantly improve Wuhan Metro's operational efficiency and passenger experience.
The smart blueprint for Wuhan Metro includes much more than what has been mentioned so far. Technology enterprises represented by Huawei will continue to apply a host of cutting-edge technologies — such as 5G, big data, AI, and IoT — to Wuhan Metro. This partnership will transform Wuhan into a world-class city with one of the best metro systems and a renowned national science and technology innovation center, and continue to drive its modernization.