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
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.
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