Belgian infrastructure manager Infrabel is installing ETCS Level 2 on two new high speed lines, and expects to convert its entire network in the longer term. Luc Lallemand explains his thinking to Harry Hondius

Infrabel CEO Luc Lallemand is confident that ERTMS will pave the way to standardise signalling and train control on the Belgian network in the longer term

'WE HAVE NO choice but to install ERTMS', says Luc Lallemand, Managing Director of the Belgian rail infrastructure manager Infrabel. He points to European Directive 96/48/EC, which he regards as a 'compulsory obligation'.

Owned 20% by SNCB Holding and 80% by the government, Infrabel is pressing ahead with installation of ETCS Level 2 on two new high speed lines. Lallemand accepts that the current cost of ERTMS is very high, but insists that it is up to the smaller operators to make a start if the long-hoped-for interoperability is ever to materialise.

Citing a recent speech by transport commissioner Jacques Barrot, Lallemand expects that the EU will soon agree to subsidise the cost of equipping both infrastructure and trains. In the longer term, he is hopeful that it will be possible to roll out ERTMS across the Belgian rail network, to replace the complex mixture of different signalling and train protection systems now in use.

Around 95% of Infrabel's total route-km is currently equipped with the 'crocodile' warning system to supplement lineside signals, and approximately 80% of SNCB's rolling stock fleet is fitted with the necessary on-train equipment.

About 13% of the network uses TBL (Transmission Balise Locomotive) Version 1, which was introduced from 1982 to provide automatic train protection and an emergency stop function if a train passes a red signal. Permitting operation at up to 160 km/h, TBL1 is installed on the principal north-south and east-west main lines, but only 8% of the rolling stock fleet is equipped to use it.

The 70 km high speed Line 1 between Brussels (Halle) and the French border, which opened in 1993, is fitted with the French TVM430 train control system, as used on TGV Nord with which it connects. Authorising operation at 300 km/h, this uses coded track-train transmissions, and no lineside signals are provided.

For the 60 km Line 2 between Bierbeek and Ans, opened in December 2002, a new system was developed by Alstom Transport Belgium. TBL2/3 has the same functions as TVM430, and also permits 300 km/h operation without lineside signals; it is also downwards-compatible with the TBL1 lineside equipment.

Apart from the Eurostar fleet, the only trains able to run at 300 km/h on the existing high speed lines are the 17 Thalys PBKA four-system trainsets, the 10 Thalys PBA three-system sets and 10 TGV Réseau units which operate from Brussels to southern France. These are all equipped with TVM for Line 1, TBL1 and the Dutch ATB system. Only the PBKA sets have TBL2/3 for Line 2, as do some of DB's multi-system ICE3M trainsets which are allowed to run at 250 km/h. SNCB's dual-voltage Class 13 electric locos are also equipped, and permitted to run at 200 km/h on Line 2.

Level 2 Version 2.3.0

In order to comply with the EU directive, Lallemand says the two new high speed lines now under construction are being equipped with ETCS Level 2, Version 2.3.0 plus GSM-R, to permit 300 km/h running. Level 1 is being provided as a back-up, for which speeds will be restricted to 160 km/h, but there will be no lineside signals.

The 35 km Line 3 runs from Chenée, near Liège, to the the German border at Hammerbrücke near Aachen, effectively as an extension of Line 2. Line 4 runs for 35·2 km from Antwerpen Luchtbal to the Dutch border. Maximum speed on Line 3 will be 220 km/h from Chenée through the Soumagne tunnel, and 300 km/h beyond.

A consortium of Alstom and Siemens was awarded a €33m contract in December 2003 to install the ETCS equipment on both routes (RG 1.05 p33). As project manager, Alstom is supplying the computer-based interlockings, track circuits and Level 2 equipment. Siemens is responsible for the Eurobalises, axle-counters, and the Level 1 back-up including LEUs. Alstom is supplying the Radio Block Centre for Line 4, which will be integrated with those on HSL-Zuid supplied by Alcatel. Lallemand says with other elements such as interlockings and turnout detection, the total cost of the signalling is €16·3m for Line 3 and €19·4m for Line 4.

Line 4 is ready for testing, and a Thalys trainset, fitted with onboard equipment by Siemens, was due to begin trial running in February. Lallemand hopes that the line will be 'technically ready' by mid-July, although full operation is not scheduled to start until April 1 2007.

Test running on Line 3 is expected to start in spring next year, with the line to be ready for operation at the end of that year. Lallemand is confident that with the experience gained with Level 2 between Halle and Leipzig and on the Roma - Napoli line, ETCS will work correctly in Belgium right from the start.

In terms of rolling stock, Level 2 and GSM-R will have to be installed on at least the 17 Thalys PBKA trainsets and the 10 PBA units. ERTMS has already been specified for the 12 AnsaldoBreda 250 km/h trainsets for regional services on HSL-Zuid, of which three will be owned by SNCB and nine by the Dutch concessionaire HSA. However, these are not now expected to arrive until 2008.

SNCB puts the cost for converting the 27 Thalys trainsets at €62m, which will have to be shared between the train operators: SNCF, SNCB, NS Reizigers and DB. In addition, the ICE3Ms will have to be equipped in order to use Line 3. SNCB has ordered onboard equipment for 50 M6 driving trailers used with the Class 13 locos, which will also have to be adapted, so that domestic services can run as far as Brecht on Line 4.

  • CAPTION: Standard Eurobalises are being used for train location and to provide Level 1 back-up instructions to trains on Lines 3 and 4
  • CAPTION: Developed specifically for high speed Line 2 between Leuven and Liège, TBL 2/3 is downwards-compatible with the TBL1 balises
  • CAPTION: The 'crocodile' warning system is currently fitted to augment colourlight signals on around 95% of the Belgian network