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Mehdorn repeats ETCS concerns

01 Aug 2003

GERMAN Railway ran a test train at 200 km/h using the European Train Control System for the first time on July 7. The trial took place between Jüterbog and Bitterfeld on the main line from Berlin to Halle and Leipzig, marking another step in the lengthy progress of ETCS towards commercial maturity. ETCS as installed on this pilot route is overlaid on existing signalling and train control equipment, allowing trains not fitted with ETCS to continue to use the route.

Germany's State Secretary for Transport Angelika Mertens was on board the test train, and DB Chairman Hartmut Mehdorn took the opportunity to press home his message about the cost of installing ETCS on the national network. Mehdorn insisted that DB could not afford to fit ETCS without additional funding from the German government or from Brussels. He repeated earlier assertions that ETCS would bring DB no advantages, although it would contribute to European unity. It would be necessary to operate ETCS for 20 years in parallel to the existing LZB inductive train control system, but the doubled cost could not be charged to passengers and freight customers, he continued. 'The costly conversion is only realistic with development funds', he concluded.

While Swiss Federal Railways is making steady and relatively rapid progress with ETCS (p492), the development and testing process is taking longer in Germany. So far only a Desiro EMU and one out of five Class 101 locomotives has been fitted for trials, and Friedrich Smaxwil, a Siemens board member, said on July 7 that it would be two to three years before ETCS equipment is ready for series production. In the meantime DB, Siemens and Alcatel must prove that their equipment is robust and reliable. So far 795 balises have been installed on the 111 km Jüterbog - Leipzig line, with Radio Block Centres in Wittenberg and Bitterfeld. A third RBC is to be built in Jüterbog to control the 40 km to Ludwigsfelde to the south of Berlin.

Confirming Switzerland's lead in ETCS development, BLS Alptransit AG awarded Alcatel a €65m contract on July 3 for design and installation by 2007 of Level 2 ETCS in the 34·6 km L