ERTMS implementation is mandatory

The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), created as a unitary command and control system, was designed to gradually replace the incompatible national systems used at European level. Its implementation brings considerable benefits in terms of interoperability. On the other hand, during the transition from the older signalling systems to ERTMS, the implementation of this system brings a considerable cost increase for both infrastructure managers and railway companies. As a result, it is essential to develop a business model that can perform this transition maintaining a well-balanced cost-efficiency ratio, especially for rail freight operators. The first step was taken by the European Commission, who updated the ERTMS implementation project.
This project revised the implementation of the technical specifications for interoperability for command, control and signalling subsystems and defines the implementation strategy. It also recognizes the importance of coordinating investments through the gradual introduction of the ERTMS system on all six freight transport corridors, on the routes with high traffic and the European freight terminals. ERTMS will have to be installed on the major European corridors by 2015 and most of the European railway networks will have to be fully equipped by 2020. Practically, by 2015, around 10,000 km of rail will have to be equipped with ERTMS and over 25,000 km of rail by 2020, meaning that all the six corridors and the additional freight transport routes will be fully equipped.
Another well-coordinated approach will oversee that all the investments are made within the same timeframe and that interoperability is achieved on the main European routes within a well-established framework.
Until 2008, the European policy focused on the technical aspects of ERTMS and in 2009 a joint implementation methodology was created. At present, there are two major aspects which have to be considered in order to implement the ERTMS system: its implementation within a well-established timeframe and cost efficiency. To that end, there are three main priorities: “We have to develop a test strategy that ensures the conformity of the ERTMS system with the European specifications, as well as an efficient interoperability. Then, we have to improve the business model for railway companies and reduce the cost of the necessary equipment. Eventually, the implementation of the ERTMS system has to be integrated in order to ensure investment coordination”, said Karel Vinck, European Commission’s ERTMS Coordinator, during an interview for Signal, the newsletter of ERTMS (July 2010). The implementation of the ERTMS system along the European railway corridors will facilitate freight transport on European territory.

ERTMS beyond European borders

In order to ensure interoperability in Europe, ERTMS has become an international standard, winning the attention of numerous countries around the globe. Aside from interoperability, ERTMS provides many advantages, leading to the development of an efficient, safe and fast transport system. Outside European borders, the investments allocated for ERTMS represent approx. 50% of the overall investments made at global level. The investment share has increased in recent years.
Countries from Asia, like China, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan (ERTMS is implemented along 1200 km of rail), South Korea (1500 km), Turkey, India and others, have allocated massive investments for the implementation of the ERTMS system on the railway network. ERTMS implementation is very important for the countries on the Asian continent. Seeing as ERTMS will be implemented on all European corridors, many other countries will be tempted to apply this system, due to the fact that Europe is the largest freight exchange market. ERTMS influences the transport capacity of railway links, helps reduce the train succession time interval, increases the commercial speed thus increase freight volumes as well.

by Pamela Luică