The Czech Minister of Transport Martin Kupka announced that from January 1, 2025, the exclusive operation under ETCS will begin and the railway sector has only one year to eliminate the problems that appeared in the trial operation of this system.
The statement was made during a meeting with the participants of a coordination expert group which was convened by the Minister of Transport.
“During operation test with ETCS, especially on the Olomouc – Uničov line, outages occur, which are probably a combination of several factors. We are intensively discussing the causes with suppliers of the transmission network, RBC [Radio Block Centre], vehicles and on-board units. The situation that has arisen needs to be resolved as quickly as possible in order not to jeopardize the investments made and the date of exclusive operation of ETCS,” the Minister of Transport Martin Kupka said.
The ETCS trials on the 29 km single-track Olomouc – Uničov railway line started in November 2022.
From the investigations, it appears that the issues are in the communication between the trackside and the on-board ETCS system. The expert group agreed that in the event of a communication failure, it is necessary to immediately secure data from the transmission network and from the vehicle in question so that everything can be evaluated. The speed of collecting the necessary data at the infrastructure operator immediately after a communication failure is essential.
“There is a need to speed up communication between the infrastructure manager, rail operators and vehicle manufacturers and suppliers of ETCS equipment. The Railway Administration [Správa železnic] will conclude contracts with manufacturers that will guarantee the rapid transmission of the necessary information,” Jiří Svoboda, the Director General of Správa železnic said.
The collected data will be continuously evaluated by a team of technicians from individual organisations and the results will be discussed at regular coordination meetings of the ETCS working group. In the first months of next year, all data exchanges must be fully launched, including inputs from other sections with ETCS operation, so that it is possible to establish a plan of steps by the end of 2024 at the beginning of March.
“We are committed to the introduction of a single European ETCS system, carriers are equipping their vehicles with this system so that they can use them on lines with exclusive traffic from 2025, and it is impossible to retreat from this,” the Director of the Czech Railway Authority Jiří Kolář said.
The introduction of ETCS is one of the important steps to strengthen safety, traffic automation and digitisation on railways throughout Europe.
903 km of Czech tracks have already been equipped with this unified technology, and preparations are continuing so that exclusive traffic on the corridors can be launched in 2025. There are currently 639 vehicles with an installed ETCS on-board on Czech railways.
In 2021, the Czech Government has approved the “Plan of Modern Train Control System on the Czech Railway Network – Implementation of ETCS” which shows that the ETCS will be gradually installed on 4,600 km of lines until 2030, when 5,400 km of railways will be already equipped with this system. This represents 60% of the railway network which ensures 98% of the traffic performance.
For this phase, the authorities estimate that CZK 47 billion (EUR 2 billion) is the required investment to install the trackside ETCS of which an investment of CZK 8 billion (EUR 342 million) is contracted. In addition, the operators invested CZK 3 billion (EUR 128 million) to equip the trains and CZK 15 billion (EUR 640.7 million) is needed to equip the train fleet until 2030. According to the Work Plan 2022 of the European Coordinator for ERTMS the Czech Republic should install the ETCS on 863 km of lines by the end of this year. Along Bulgaria, Germany, Hungry, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain the Czech Republic has a progress rate of the ETCS deployment above 80%.
The plan published by the Czech Government also reveals that the Czech Republic will install the ETCS on other 4,000 km of railway lines until 2040 which means that in the next two decades, the entire Czech railway network will be equipped with the ETCS.