ERTMS – the solution for greater competitiveness?

Through the creation of trans-European rail corridors (TEN-T), the EU has laid the foundation for an efficient railway infrastructure. Nevertheless, there are still technical and administrative hurdles to be surmounted. In the EU alone there are more than 20 country-specific train protection systems that are mutually incompatible. Equally problematic is the number of different homologation procedures – with little harmonization – and the variety of safety requirements. These make cross-border rail transport a complex and expensive transport solution – until now.

Standard train protection systems

The idea of standardizing the train protection systems in Europe – and now in many other non-European countries as well – is fundamentally sound and correct. This point is reinforced by a quotation from the UNIFE ERTMS Website: “ERTMS aims at replacing the different national train control and command systems in Europe. The deployment of ERTMS will enable the creation of a seamless European railway system and increase European railways’ competitiveness. ERTMS has two basic components: ETCS (European Train Control System), an automatic train protection system (ATP) to replace the existing national ATP systems, and GSM-R, a radio system for providing voice and data communication between the track and the train, based on standard GSM, using frequencies specifically reserved for rail application with certain specific and advanced functions.”

The problem of migration

Experts compare the ERTMS project to the attempt to replace a manual gearbox with an automatic gearbox while the car is running. The migration phase is problematic, especially since there will be a long transition phase before ERTMS is introduced across all of Europe. One reason for this is the uncertain or inadequate financing for the expensive conversion of the entire network, which makes it unlikely that all routes can be fully equipped. Moreover, during the transition phase (probably for an indefinite period), the rolling stock will have to be equipped with old systems as well as ERTMS. Among other reasons, this is needed to enable trains to run on alternate routes if necessary.

The solution: The ERTMS corridors

The purpose of focusing ERTMS on a few main transport corridors is to speed up the introduction of ERTMS and to keep financing requirements within bounds. To this end, on July 22, 2009, the European Commission approved the plan for the phased introduction of the European Railway Traffic Management System ERTMS. This plan defines six ERTMS corridors (A-F), based on the TEN-T railway corridors and with a total length of about 13,000 km, which are to be equipped with ERTMS (see table). As a minimum target, by 2015 each member state must have one corridor within its borders equipped with ERTMS (source: IZBE Leipzig 2008). These six corridors will cover 20 percent of the European rail freight volume. Precise targets for regularity, reliability, quality of service, and capacity of the traffic corridor have been defined for each of these corridors.

Overview of ERTMS corridors



Route length

Proportion of
freight traffic


Rotterdam – Basel – Genoa


59 %


Stockholm – Copenhagen –
Hamburg – Berlin – Munich –
Verona – Bologna – (Neapel)


51 %


Antwerp – Basel / Lyon


67 %


Valencia – Barcelona – Lyon –
Turin – Triest – Ljubljana –


47 %


Dresden – Prague – Brno –
Vienna – Budapest – (Bukarest –


75 %


Duisburg – Berlin – Warsaw –


76 %

Planning status

Source: EU, as of July 2009

A continuous ERTMS rail network connecting the most important ports and freight terminals in Europe is to be created by 2020. The plan now gives the railway companies the certainty they need to be able to invest in ERTMS. Numerous companies have already begun implementing the plan. The Commission is backing this with subsidies totaling €500 million from the budget for trans-European traffic networks 2007 - 2013, the regional fund, and the cohesion fund.

Since most operators only use partial sections of the corridors (for example, only from Basel to Milan on corridor A), the flexibility and modularity of the train protection concept is crucial for economic reasons. The Vectron, for example, can be equipped initially with only two national packages, in this case Switzerland (CH) plus Italy (I), and ETCS. It can then, if necessary, be relatively easily retrofitted later with the national packages for Germany (D) and the Netherlands (NL), for example.


Thanks to ERTMS, the competitiveness of rail traffic can be improved substantially. This is especially true for freight transport, assuming that the system is installed on a corridor from end to end and the appropriate associated measures are taken. Examples of this are the harmonization of operating regulations and improvements to the infrastructure where necessary. On the Rotterdam – Genoa corridor, for instance, this will enable the freight traffic volume to be doubled by 2020, which is the equivalent of one truck every 37 seconds on this route.

However, for the time being, there will certainly be a lengthy migration phase for rail freight traffic with ERTMS, even working on the basis of the EU’s ambitious implementation plan.


before 2009

Migration phase
at least until 2030

Status (the day
after) tomorrow?
after 2030


20 national train

  services inevi-
  tably require the
  installation of all
  national systems

ERTMS installed
  on selected

National protection
  systems still in 
  (alternate routes,
   national sidings


No national



Equipped with
  national train
  protection and
  radio systems
  of the countries
  to be covered

Equipped with
  national train
  protection an
  radio systems
  of the countries
  to be covered

  with ERTMS

Requirements for locomotives

The following requirements for locomotives arise from the coexistence of ERTMS and national train protection systems:

  • For national single-system locomotives:
    The national train protection system plus, if necessary, an ETCS system, if the operator wishes to run services exclusively on new national routes equipped with ETCS, for instance, or to increase throughput in the network by deploying ETCS.

  • For locomotives operating cross-border services:
    Intelligent connection of national systems to an ETCS core with maximum flexibility, with the option of upgrading or exchanging additional national systems easily at a later date.

Vectron’s “Creating corridors” concept

Vectron creates new approaches through:

  • Customer-optimized national and interoperable locomotive variants

  • Investment protection thanks to innovative train protection concept, ideal for the migration phase

  • Future-proof pre-equipment packages for longer, more economical trains

  • Comprehensive, Europe-wide Siemens experience in homologation and cross-border traffic

Summary of the Vectron solution


  Vectron solution



National operation


Tailor-made for low-
  cost, national traffic
Locomotive equipped
  only with the
  performance and the
  components that
  the customer needs
  for national operation
Possibility of retroactive
  upgrading for cross-
  border services

AC and DC single-
  system variants
  optimized for the
  specific country
Only those
  components installed
  that the customer
  actually needs in this
Simple, retroactive
  upgrading of an AC
  high power locomotive
  to a multi-system
  locomotive possible
  with multi-system (MS)
  pre-equipment package

Cost advantage:
  Customer only pays
  for those systems
  that it needs
Investment protection:
  Convertibility at a later
  date for cross-border
High resale value
Usable for second
  or third application



      Vectron solution



Cross-border operation


Multi-system locomotives
Train protection concept
  designed for the
  migration phase (ETCS
  core with national train
  protection systems that 
  can be configured for
  the specific country
  and can be readily
  retrofitted and
Operation on ERTMS
  and other corridors
Easy to convert to
  other corridors/routes,
  depending on
  customer orders

  multi-system variants
Country package
Train protection
  cabinet for ETCS 
  basic system plus
  national systems
Upgrading and
  conversion to
  different corridors
  possible at a
  later date  

Investment protection
  and flexibility with
  regard to area of
  application during
  the migration phase
  and over the entire
  lifecycle of the
Low-cost conversion:
  Vehicles ready for
  deployment for new
  functions within
  a few days
High resale value


Vectron solution



Longer trains


Increased corridor


High traction power
High tractive effort
Intelligent slip control
Option for long trains:
  Center buffer coupling
  (also retrofittable)
Multiple traction

Increase in revenues
  and profit per train
Possibility of
  deployment for
  short route slots
  on corridor


Vectron solution


                                  Assistance with homologation processes

for initial certifications
for retrofits and

Siemens has
  certification experience
  in virtually all European
Successful locomotive
  certifications in 16
  European countries

  Retrofits and upgrades
  can be quickly
  introduced and put
  into use