Intended to provide a single signalling and train control system across the continent, the European Rail Traffic Management System promises to increase the competitiveness and dynamism of the railway sector, bringing both cost savings and safety improvements. As such, it forms a key component of the European Union's strategy for revitalising the rail sector

TECHNICAL BARRIERS continue to impede the competitiveness of Europe's railway sector. Today there are more than 20 signalling and train control systems in use across the continent, which results in additional cost and complexity for international operations, increases the risk of equipment failure and makes the driver's task even more complicated. For example, the Thalys PBKA trainsets are equipped with no fewer than seven different systems to operate on the networks of four different countries.

ERTMS was first developed in the 1990s under research framework programmes funded by the European Community. Its two principal components are track-to-train transmission of voice and data by GSM-R radio and the onboard European Train Control System which provides ATP functions such as overspeed protection. ETCS has three levels. Under Level 1, on routes equipped with lineside signalling, instructions are transmitted to the train using standard track-mounted beacons or Eurobalises. Level 2 uses GSM-R transmission to replace both lineside signals and balises, affording substantial investment and maintenance savings, although train detection is still performed by track circuits or axle-counters. In Level 3, the train determines and reports its own location, theoretically making it possible to introduce moving block to optimise line capacity and further reduce the amount of trackside equipment to be installed and maintained.

By the end of 2004, there were plans or commitments to ERTMS projects in no less than 16 European countries to be implemented by 2008 (RG 1.05 p30). Some of these were extensions of existing pilot projects, others envisaged widescale introduction of Level 1 to provide an ATP overlay on existing lineside signalling. At that time Level 2 development was far from mature, but a significant milestone came on March 18 this year when Swiss Federal Railways announced that all trains using its 45 km Mattstetten - Rothrist line had been switched to Level 2 control, and June 10 will see the launch of revenue services on TGV Est using a mix of ETCS Level 2 and TVM430.

Further schemes have since emerged, and whilst some project timescales have slipped, I am pleased to report that ERTMS projects are now being taken forward in almost every country across Europe (Table I). Deployment plans submitted to the Commission so far suggest that within 10 to 15 years some major routes in most countries will have been equipped with ERTMS, while the remaining countries will be crossed by ERTMS-equipped corridors.

Corridor strategy

But many of these schemes are isolated projects, whereas ERTMS was conceived as a pan-European technology. We simply cannot afford to wait for 15 to 20 years before the programme achieves critical mass.

So in July 2005 the European Commission outlined its objective to facilitate the rapid implementation of ERTMS on 20 000 km of routes over the following decade. Towards this end, the European Union agreed to provide funding for organisations undertaking the first projects. A memorandum of understanding was signed with various railway associations - CER, UIC, Unife and EIM - establishing the basic principles for an EU-wide deployment strategy. This also provided for the creation of a steering committee to provide guidance and monitor the implementation process.

The ERTMS priority corridors have been selected on the basis of the ETCS network corridors identified in the Technical Specifications for Interoperability, as well as the European Rail Infrastructure Master Plan developed by UIC in close co-operation with the other associations. There are six main corridors (Table II), which represent only 6% of the total European railway network but carry 20% of current freight traffic.

A generic methodology, terminology and a set of assumptions were developed for the corridor analysis. The overall objective of a corridor study is to identify what investment is required to improve the performance of rail against other modes, leading to the production of a corridor strategy and implementation plan. The study should consider capacity, operations and performance enhancement and ways of improving conditions for access. These include the standardisation of interface parameters, enhancement of command, control and signalling systems and/or a reduction in the variety and cost of onboard equipment required for through services along the corridor.

The main output of each study is a recommendation for a migration strategy to ERTMS and other related investment needed to achieve the objective of a competitive rail corridor, based on an explicit cost:benefit analysis. The cost:benefit calculations underpinning this recommendation need to be supported by all relevant parties, and to this end the impact upon each of the relevant stakeholders must be quantified as part of the study. This needs to include any changes in access charges that may result from capital investment, or changes to infrastructure operating costs. The corridor studies cover the periods 2007-13 and 2014-20. Analysis takes into account both the business objectives and the planned ETCS deployment along the corridor.

Financial support

A total of €500m has been earmarked for ERTMS projects in the EU's Trans-European Networks budget for 2007-13, and this will be used in the first instance to facilitate deployment on the agreed corridors. Financial support will be provided for both onboard and trackside equipment, to a maximum of 50% of the total eligible cost of the project. A first call for proposals is due this month, and it is expected that a second tranche of projects will follow in 2008-09.

In order to make the best possible use of the limited financial resources, strict criteria have been established over what costs will be deemed eligible for support. As regards onboard equipment, the funding available for prototypes of new traction and rolling stock will depend on the number of countries in which certification will be obtained, up to a ceiling of €1·4m. For existing locomotives or driving cars, the eligible installation cost for a single class will be limited to k200 000 per set of ERTMS equipment in the 2007 package and to €150 000 per set in the subsequent proposals. For new traction and rolling stock the eligible cost will be limited to €100 000 per set. The retrofitting of high speed trainsets will be subjected to a case-by-case analysis to assess the specific circumstances.

In the case of trackside equipment, financial support will be limited to those costs directly related to ERTMS installation, such as new cabling, interfaces with existing signalling systems, balise installation and certification. Interlockings are not considered to fall in within the ambit of the ERTMS programme and eligible infrastructure costs for retrofitting existing lines will be limited to €150 000 per km of double track route.

Implementation in each corridor cannot get underway fully until all the countries involved have signed up to a Letter of Intent, committing both the political authorities and the national infrastructure managers to achieving the anticipated intallation deadlines. I was able to report in January that the Letters had been signed for Corridors A, C and D, and I hope that we will be able to conclude negotiations for the other three before the end of this year.

Faster progress needed

I am particularly pleased to see that a number of the corridor programmes are not only committed to ERTMS installation in the short-term, but go far beyond this. National authorities and infrastructure managers have to co-operate to deploy ERTMS, and once the relevant stakeholders have come to the table we need to seize the opportunity to make progress in other fields.

In order to facilitate this process, the corridor analysis methodology has already very clearly identified two separate workstreams. Part A was concerned with improving interoperability in terms of 'other actions' such as administrative procedures, operational interoperability and infrastructure, while Part B is concerned with the actual deployment of ETCS. Taken by themselves, many of the actions identified in Part A would also produce a significant impact on easing traffic flows within the corridor.

The stabilisation of technical specifications is also of the utmost importance for the co-ordinated deployment of ERTMS. Whilst some early projects are still using Version 2.2.2, the general consensus is that Version 2.3.0 has now been stabilised. We expect that this will serve as a basis for all current projects until around 2011. Version 2.3.0 will also serve as the basis for the development of Version 3.0.0, which we anticipate will be ready to roll out as a software upgrade across all ETCS-equipped routes in 2011-12.

In general, railways that are now using ERTMS have expressed satisfaction with the technology and only a limited number of modifications have been suggested for Version 3.0.0. The European Railway Agency is responsible for technical specifications and is ensuring that all modifications to the current standard are duly justified, drawing on expertise from across the railway industry.

I am convinced that revitalising rail freight and improving the interoperability of Europe's railways are of the utmost importance and that we cannot afford to lose another second. EU member states are currently preparing their national ERTMS deployment plans and we have to bring these plans together at European level to produce a clear and concrete ERTMS deployment strategy. It really is a case of now or never.

L'ERTMS atteint un point crucial

Selon Karel Vinck, coordinateur de l'ERTMS pour la Commission européenne, le programme pour installer l'European Rail Traffic Management System a maintenant atteint une phase cruciale. Permettant des réductions de coûts tout autant que des améliorations de la sécurité, l'ERTMS a le potentiel pour rendre le rail plus compétitif et constitue un élément clé de la stratégie de l'Union européenne afin de revitaliser ce secteur. L'Union européenne participe à hauteur de k500m pour soutenir les projets ERTMS dans son budget 2007-2013 des réseaux trans-européens, le déploiement étant appliqué en priorité à six corridors qui ne représentent que 6% du réseau européen total mais acheminent 20% du trafic fret

ERTMS erreichte entscheidende Phase

Das Programm zur Installation des Europäischen Bahnverkehrsleitsystems ERTMS hat nun gemäss Karel Vinck, ERTMS Koordinator für die Europäische Kommission, eine entscheidende Phase erreicht. Mit Kostenvorteilen und Verbesserung der Sicherheit hat ERTMS das Potenzial zur Steigerung der Konkurrenzfähigkeit der Bahn, und es ist eine der Schlüsselkomponenten der Strategie der EU zur Revitalisierung dieses Bereichs. Die EU stellt im Rahmen des Trans-European Network-Budgets für 2007-13 rund 500 Millionen Euro zur Verfügung, um ERTMS-Projekte zu fördern. Die Einführung hat Priorität auf sechs Schlüsselachsen, welche zwar nur 6% des gesamten europäischen Netzes umfassen, aber 20% des Güterverkehrs abwickeln

ERTMS alcanza una coyuntura crucial

Según Karen Vinck, coordinador del ERTMS para la Comisión Europea, el programa para instalar el European Rail Traffic Management System acaba de alcanzar una fase crucial. Gracias al ahorro en los costes y a las mejoras en seguridad, el ERTMS hace del transporte ferroviario un medio más competitivo y supone un componente clave para que la estrategia de la Unión Europea revitalice este sector. La UE ha invertido 500 millones de euros en su apoyo a los proyectos del ERTMS en el presupuesto para el 2007-13 de la Red Transeuropea de Transportes y se ha dado prioridad a los seis corredores clave que representan sólo el 6% del total de la red de ferrocarriles europeos pero que soportan por sí solos el 20% de su tráfico de mercancías