THE decision to install ERTMS on TGV Est (p318) is clear evidence of a firm commitment in Europe to pursue the development of ETCS technology, despite the cost. But the goal of attaining levels of reliability acceptable for commercial service remains elusive. Even on TGV Est, due to open in 2007, conventional signalling will be available for non-ETCS fitted trains - and as a back-up. This means that two complete train control systems are being installed, surely a nonsense at a time when railways are striving to cut costs to compete with road and air.

In 2002-03 Swiss Federal Railways bravely tested an earlier version of Level 2 in commercial service over the 35 km between Zofingen and Sempach on the Olten - Luzern main line (RG 8.03 p492), but this was dismantled last year with the line reverting to conventional signals on December 1. This pilot project was intended to pave the way for operation of all trains on the 45 km Mattstetten - Rothrist line with Level 2 when it opens on December 12 this year. But the production ETCS differed significantly from that used on the pilot, and SBB subsequently had cold feet. It decided reluctantly to install back-up conventional signalling to ensure that the new line would open on time - tracklaying was completed on April 30 with a ’golden spike’ ceremony at Inkwil prior to the line being handed over by contractors Zschokke Locher to SBB on June 7.

The Swiss had made a similar commitment to install Level 2 in the 34·6 km L