EUROPE: Work has officially started on an EU-backed project to develop a demonstrator version of the Future Railways Mobile Communication System, as a successor to current GSM-R technology.

Funded through the EU’s Horizon 2020 research programme, the 30-month 5GRAIL project has eight work packages and an overall budget of €13m.

Led by the International Union of Railways as Project Co-ordinator, the 5GRAIL consortium brings together a wide range of partners from across the European rail sector. UNIFE represents the supply industry, along with communications and IT specialists Nokia, Kontron, Alstom, Thales, Siemens, CAF and Teleste. Infrastructure managers are represented by DB Netz, SNCF Réseau, SBB, ÖBB and Infraestruturas de Portugal, while the academic and research partners are IFSTTAR-Université Gustave Eiffel from France and DTU from Denmark.

5GRAIL will co-operate closely with Shift2Rail and the successor European Innovation Partnership for railway research, as well as regulatory and standardisation bodies. Co-ordination with the EU Agency for Railways will ensure that FRMCS is compatible with the requirements of the Technical Specifications for Interoperability for Control Command & Signalling.


The development will be based on UIC’s Version 1 of the Functional and System Requirement specifications, including interfaces, using 5G technology to 3GPP Release 16. The project aims to validate the draft specifications ‘by developing and testing prototypes for the FRMCS ecosystem for both trackside infrastructure and on-board use’. The target is to have a production version available in 2025 so that railways can start their own national pilot projects, based on the future 3GPP Release 17.

The 5GRAIL prototypes will be tested in laboratories and real world conditions, ensuring that FRMCS will be able to support ETCS data, voice group calls and railway emergency calls. The project will also look at cross-border scenarios and coexistence with road-based intelligent transport systems.

‘Enabling railway networks to benefit from 5G technology is a fundamental aspect of the sector’s transformation strategy’, said UIC Director General François Davenne on November 5. ‘For UIC, which has piloted the development of 5G use cases and specifications with the support of its members, the financing by DG Connect of the initial demonstrators is a symbol of maturity for the sector. Together, we will make high-speed radio transmission a real part of railway operations.’

Adding that ‘the Horizon 2020 5GRAIL project will support first market application and pilot projects for the introduction of 5G FRMCS technology’, UNIFE Director General Philippe Citroën said the project would ‘leverage the results and findings from Shift2Rail, 5GRAIL and Shift2Rail-2’ and ‘translate them into deployable commercial solutions demonstrating the benefits of strong EU research work.’