Swiss rail leads the way on standard signalling
Rail industry leaders have welcomed a decision by Switzerland to implement the European Train Control System (ETCS) across its standard-gauge network by 2017 following successful operation on high-speed lines.
The decision was announced last week by Swiss infrastructure managers CFF and BLS and the Federal Office of Transport (OFT), which stressed that its experience with ETCS was very positive, and that the system "had proved its value in terms of capacity and stability".
ETCS was first introduced in Switzerland on the new Mattstetten-Rothrist line, and then implemented in 2007 in the Lotschberg base tunnel.
OFT said the high-speed St Gothard base line will be equipped with ETCS Level 2, which relies entirely on in-cab signalling with no lineside signals. The conventional standard-gauge network will use the simpler ETCS Level 1 Limited Supervision version, which retains external signals. The cost of the work is estimated at 370 million Swiss francs (£185m).
"As of 2017, international and domestic trains will be able to run on any part of the Swiss network with only one unique control command system. This will considerably boost the competitiveness of rail freight right in the heart of Europe" commented Michael Clausecker, director-general of the European rail industry organisation UNIFE.
ETCS is a key component of the European Rail Traffic Management System, alongside the railway-specific GSM-R communications system. According to UNIFE, ERTMS aims at replacing more than 20 different national train control and command systems in Europe, which are a major technical barrier to international rail traffic. Trains fitted with ETCS may run on ERTMS-equipped lines, which bring considerable benefits in terms of interoperability, maintenance costs savings, safety and traffic capacity.
"A non-EU country, Switzerland pioneers the development of ERTMS, where it is already a success story. Some EU Member States would be well-inspired to follow this example and seriously invest in ERTMS to create a truly seamless European rail network. This is critical if the European rail sector is to compete with road freight," said Clausecker.