Harmonised rail signalling moves closer

The European Commission has adopted the plan implementing the European rail signalling and traffic management system ERTMS.

The plan provides for the progressive deployment of ERTMS along the main European rail freight routes, so that suitably-equipped locomotives and other railway vehicles will be able to access more lines, terminals and marshalling yards without needing additional national equipment. The move will reduce running costs and improve the system's efficiency on long cross-border distances. ERTMS is also used on Europe's high-speed lines.

The plan provides for almost 10 000km of lines to be equipped by 2015. These lines will form an initial network with vital corridors for goods transport, such as Rotterdam-Genoa, Antwerp-Basel, and Barcelona-Lyon-Budapest-Constanta.

By 2020 there should be a network of 25 000km linking the main European ports and freight terminals. However, many Member States have committed themselves, via their own national plans, to exceeding their Community obligations, so in fact there should be around 40 000 km equipped with the ERTMS by then.

This plan should now give rail companies the necessary assurance to invest in ERTMS. Many of them have already anticipated the plan's implementation, which the Commission has been backing with co-financing of a total of 500 million euros in the 2007-2013 budget for the trans-European transport networks and via the Regional Fund and Cohesion Fund.

Under ERTMS, information is transmitted from the track to the train, where an on-board computer uses it to calculate the maximum authorised speed and to slow the train down automatically if necessary. The on-board computer therefore has to understand the information sent from the ground.

The system will eventually replace more than 20 incompatible national systems for automatically controlling the speed of trains. At present, operators of cross-border trains must either change locomotives at the border, which is time-consuming, or provide multiple on-board systems, which increases costs and the risks of breakdown.


For a map of the proposed deployment, click here

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