PLANS to roll out ERTMS on the international rail freight corridor between Rotterdam and Genoa moved ahead on March 3 when the transport ministers of the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and Italy signed a Letter of Intent during a meeting at Bregenz in Austria.

The ministers confirmed their intention to complete the work by 2012, with the aim of making Rotterdam - Genoa 'the first ERTMS corridor in Europe'. However, the agreement includes a provision for implementation on the Oberhausen - Mannheim section in Germany to be delayed until 2015 if necessary. 'Alternative technical solutions' would be put in place to ensure interoperability with STM/PZB and LZB.

The LoI has its basis in a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the four countries in 2003 to improve framework conditions for rail freight. Implementation plans have already been presented to the European Commission's ERTMS co-ordinator Karel Vinck, along with a request for funding from the TEN-T programme. The ministers envisage the next step will be to set up a permanent committee of representatives from the infrastructure managers to co-ordinate the deployment process.

Dutch transport minister Karla Peijs hopes the commitment will reinforce the case for freight operators to equip their locomotives with ETCS Level 2 to run on the Betuwe Route (p173).