The goal of signalling/train control systems on the long term can be stated as to maximize the utilization of the rail transport infrastructure and to remove the signalling system as a constraint on rail system operations, while still providing for the high level of safety and interoperability of train movements, demands expressed by the rail industry and expected by customers, either passengers or freight forwarders.
Problems with interoperability have always hindered rail operations in Europe. The existence of more than 20 signalling systems in Europe is viewed as a critical factor. Indeed, each train used by a national rail company has to be equipped with at least one system, but sometimes more, just to be able to run safely within the country it crosses.
This is costly and significantly increases the technical and operational complexity of train sets. Removing these barriers by implementing the ERTMS will help increase the performance of rail transport by levelling the playing field between road and rail transport.
As a unique and innovative signalling system, ERTMS considerably facilitates cross-border traffic movements. Trains equipped with ERTMS systems and components manufactured by any qualified supplier are able to run on tracks equipped with ERTMS of any other supplier. This enables the easy and seamless coordination of domestic and international train services and it also encourages competition.
Specialists believe that the ERTMS is the only step towards a more efficient international traffic, either cross-border traffic between European countries or between Asian countries and Europe.
“A key element in the operation of cross-border traffic, either freight or passenger, is the ERTMS. Track access charges can play an important part in encouraging infrastructure managers and rail operators to invest in ERTMS-equipped trains, a decision that would significantly accelerate the market development and increase the efficiency of freight corridors”, said Michael Clausecker, Director General UNIFE.
Apart from sustaining railway efficiency, the ETCS provides a series of inherent benefits in terms of energy saving. ETCS supports operation flow by simply eliminating the delay of trains while stopping at international borders, which means reducing energy consumption and favouring interoperability. Moreover, the signalling system installed in the driver’s cab informs the driver about the speeds, while the ETCS-equipped lines maximise the performance and efficiency of operating trains.
Signalling is the bedrock of the rail system. Under nominal conditions, signalling systems enable communication between infrastructure and trains, thereby guaranteeing the overall cohesion of the system. Implementing a strong overall vision of a signalling system is a must in the current fragmented world of railways involving infrastructure managers, train operators and third parties such as maintenance suppliers, wagon keepers, service providers and procurement entities.