GERMAN Railway and its suppliers Siemens and Alcatel proudly announced on December 6 that commercial services with trains controlled by Level 2 ETCS had begun on the 100 km Jüterbog - Leipzig section of the Berlin - Leipzig main line.
Setting aside the pilot scheme which saw commercial service under Level 2 control over the 35 km between Zofingen and Sempach on the Luzern - Olten route in Switzerland in 2002-03, this is the first time that fare-paying passengers have been carried using Level 2. It is only fair to point out that the German scheme is a pilot too, as only five Class 101 locomotives have been fitted with Level 2 equipment.
Just a few days later, on December 12, Trenitalia and RFI were due to launch Level 2 on the new line between Roma and Napoli. Sadly, we understand that the event was postponed, but we look forward to reporting the launch of 300 km/h operation with Level 2 in a future edition.
Meanwhile, the tribulations with train control equipment on the HSL-Zuid high speed line in the Netherlands (RG 12.05 p747) are far from over. Transport Minister Karla Peijs suggested in late November that services could start in July 2007 using a small fleet of diesel locomotives fitted with Level 2 ETCS. Leasing charges for 12 locos are put at €50m a year, which High Speed Alliance is reluctant to pay.
Such a stop-gap service would be limited to 160 km/h, with Amsterdam - Breda trains taking just 12min less than those travelling via the existing route. From November 2007 it would be possible to run trains at 30min intervals plus an Amsterdam - Brussels service every 2h offering a 38min time saving. Quite when the AnsaldoBreda trainsets ordered for these services will be available remains unknown, as does a date for fitting Thalys trainsets with Level 2.
As pressure to deploy ETCS rises, bids will be made for the limited funding available from the European Union. One was made on November 22 at the 'Sea-to-Sea' symposium organised in Brussels by Unife, German Railway and Italian Railways, which produced a 'Declaration of Mutual Interest' calling for installation of ETCS along the busy freight corridor from Rotterdam to Basel, Milano and Genova where traffic is expected to grow at 7% a year. Although installation of Level 2 was favoured, it was by no means clear that the available funding would suffice. 'Finance is limited', said DB Chairman Hartmut Mehdorn, 'and we must invest intelligently'.
On December 12 the 'Article 21 Committee' (RG 1.05 p34) consisting of representatives from member states and the European Commission charged with developing a co-ordinated ERTMS deployment plan agreed to update and finalise the ERTMS specification. The move prompted EIM to comment that 'the system is mature and ready for large-scale deployment'. That may be over-optimistic, although the decision certainly represents progress. We suspect, however, that the dance is not over yet.