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Old June 28th, 2011, 09:50 AM   #1
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MISC | ERTMS - why is it taking to long to implement?

ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) is one of the best initiatives of the European Union. For those unfamiliar with the concept, in a nutshell, it aims to vastly increase interoperability of rolling stock within EU by means of adoption of a uniform set of compatible signaling of railways. It comprises a control system (ECTS) and a communication system (GSM-R).

It was meant be for the rail industry what uniform signaling and ATC protocols from ICAO have done for the air industry: with very few exceptions, an airplane doesn't have to be commissioned and certified to operate in each airport it intends to fly, but they are indeed certified to be compliant with general requirements of safety and communication, and then they can fly pretty much everywhere where runways and terminals are able to handle them. You don't have year-long test flights to measure specific performance of the new 777-800 when an airline buys some new airplanes to operate a new route...

However, the ERTMS implementation has been painfully slow. From their official website, we can see these figures:

Deployment statistics


France and Germany, essential for any expectation of EU-wide interoperability, have implemented ERTMS only for 708km. Incidentally, they are home of 2 of the 4 major European train manufacturers.

Why in Earth are they taking so long to deploy ERTMS in large swaths of their networks? I've read many possible explanations, usually framed around "we want to wait ERTMS level 3 to be ready before we spend billions on railway control upgrades". Is it that everyone is sit while they bring ERTMS 3 to life, essentially displacing the need for the Eurobalise?

Spain has deployed ERTMS the most, but part of its rolling stock have break of gauge limitations to be used north of the Pyrenees.

Yet, I think ERTMS has the potential to change the European rail industry once adopted on large scale. We could see leasing companies buying trains on a rolling basis from the manufacturers and then being able to lease vehicles to rail operators, that could quickly put new train sets in operations, instead of ordering in 2011 trains to be ready for commercial service in 2014 at the earliest.This could also create a more active second-hand market for train sets, particularly multiple units.
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Old June 28th, 2011, 12:24 PM   #2
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Even though I know that you know the answer to you're own question, I would like to give you a few answers.


1. History
All European countries developed a railway network on their own without many connections between the different countries. This created this whole fragmented European network that we can still see nowadays. It also created all the different companies that are used to work on their own. Because of this situation it's much harder to create European standard, the railway companies are simply not used to work together.

This is one of the biggest difference with the Airline industry, that has been much more international from the start. Many National Airline companies have been flying international since the early stages of commercial flight operations. This created a necessity for international standardization, otherwise the range and volume of todays air traffic would simply not be possible.


2. Money
The obvious answer, but there's more behind it. Apart from a more international network the airline industry is much more centralized when it comes to infrastructure. There are a couple of nodes, the airports that are connected by planes without a need for infrastructure between the airports. If you change the systems you only need to change the airports and the planes.

In the rail industry you have lots of KMs of track between the nodes, the stations. There are also many more stations then airports and there are also more trains then airplanes. A change of system needs much more work on the railways then for the airline industry. To change the European network completely it would cost many many billions of Euro's. If you look at Spain you see that the system was implemented on new network and that the old network was also in need of new safety system. In other countries there are already working systems, that are technologically and economically not in need of replacement.

3. Fragmentation
Even though ERTMS is a European System you cannot simply assume that it should work the same in every single country from the start. As we have seen in point 1 the network is different in every country. If we could just completely rebuilt all the networks completely there wouldn't be a problem. But since that is not financially feasible the ERTMS needs to work together with all the different national systems that are already in place. This makes it all so much more complicated since special measures in 1 country could have a negative effect on the old systems in another country. This creates huge compatibility problems, slowing down the development significantly.

The airline industry doesn't have this problem as much as the rail industry since it was much less fragmented from the start.

Conclusion.

The whole need for this new European wide system is also the source for the problems and delays. Different national companies with different networks specifics that all have their own agenda make the implementation of one European System much harder. The problems also have a negative influence on the costs, and that's never a good incentive for the national governments to spend those Euro's on a system that still isn't functioning properly on international scale. It's a slow progress, and it will take more time for it spread all over Europe. With more and more lines that use it in service we will see that the problems will be solved and that it will become much more interesting to make a complete change.
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Old June 28th, 2011, 12:40 PM   #3
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my guess is that it is cheaper to equip vehicles with support for several signaling and safety systems than to upgrade the railway infrastructure.
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Old June 28th, 2011, 12:56 PM   #4
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It's indeed still cheaper to just fit the trains with the equipment that is needed on a specific route. Especially since the number of international services that cross more then 1 border have gone down significantly in the last 20 years.
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Old June 28th, 2011, 01:36 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Momo1435 View Post
It's indeed still cheaper to just fit the trains with the equipment that is needed on a specific route. Especially since the number of international services that cross more then 1 border have gone down significantly in the last 20 years.
But the process is self-defeating, then. For instance: TGV services between Milano, Torino and Paris were recently considered for the chopping block, as Italian railway infrastructure operator nor requires SCMT, the Italian train control system, to be fit in all trains operating in the Italian tracks fit with it.

SNCF was reluctant to install SCMT on its trains, as there are only 3 daily services on that route. Same goes for ÖBB, which cancelled all trains bewteen Venezia and Wien and replaced the Italian sector with replacement buses (!).
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Old June 28th, 2011, 03:25 PM   #6
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And those are good examples of the unwillingness of the national railway companies to work together. They don't even bother installing a different system on the trains to make international services with High Speed Trains possible. And as a result there are again less international services, reducing even more the need for 1 European system if you look at it from the political perspective.

You could even argue that the new open access rules have a negative effect on the implementation of the ERTMS. Europe is ready for more competition, but many of the EU states aren't. And since ERTMS makes it easier for foreign companies to start competing services it's not in the interest of the individual countries to install a new system that could result in unwanted competition. Although it also create opportunities for the companies to expand outside their own country. But since it's more a political problem that side is usually overlooked by the national governments. As a result you for example that the French government is more or less against competition while the SNCF has started activities in many other European countries. And that again creates irritations between countries that aren't helping the Europe wide implementation of the system.


All in all you it becomes clear that all European countries should come together and decide to invest money to install ERTMS on all the major international and national routes. The EU can decide as much as they want, until they won't pay for a complete transition it won't be done without the approval of the national governments. But since the costs are high, and the direct profits not clear it will be a problem. Especially with the spending cuts that are going on in most European countries.
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Old June 28th, 2011, 03:47 PM   #7
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Well, the process may be slow, but I believe one day all European mainlines would be either ERTMS on 1435 or ALS+addons on 1520...
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Old June 28th, 2011, 10:51 PM   #8
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Denmark will have ERTMS level 2 on all lines by 2021

The 2 test lines (or Early Deployment) on the national network will Roskilde - Køge - Næstved (2017) in eastern Denmark and between Langå north of Arhus and Frederikshavn (2018) in the northwestern Denmark.

On the S-train network it will be between Jægersborg and Hillerød (2014) and Siemens will most likely be the supplier for the S-trains and that system will be a CTBC system used in major cities worldwide.

All these lines can be seperated from the other lines so they are ideal for the socalled Early Deployment.

The website is only in danish but here it is anyway.

http://www.bane.dk/visSignalKampagne.asp?artikelID=7241
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Old June 29th, 2011, 08:00 AM   #9
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One reason why one does not see much progress at the moment has to do with the upgrade path choosen by most railways.
ETCS, like any modern network technology, consists of several layers. Many railway have choosen to migrate the "physical layer" first, but keeping the software layer compatible with their current systems.
For example, Belgium is now rolling out TBL+. This system uses Eurobalises, but at the moment the hardware is uses to transmit data compatible with the current safety system. Switzerland is going the same route, calling it "EuroZub", the national system "ZUB", implemented with ETCS hardware.

So expect ETCS route km. to increas in jumps, as networks like that of Belgium and Switzerland move to the new system in one block somewhere in the future.
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Old August 4th, 2014, 06:35 PM   #10
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I am looking for maps like this one from Austria to get an idea how far ETCS is implemented in other member states so far:


Source: http://www.oebb.at/infrastruktur/de/...ichtskarte.jsp
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Old August 5th, 2014, 01:21 AM   #11
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You may be able to find those informations on the web pages of the infrastructure providers which usually somewhere more or less hidden provide some (interoperability) informations for train operators...

To become useful, maps about ETCS should not only include which Level (L1 or L2) they provide, but also which software/Specification major version ("baseline") is required on the on board units. Updating trackside equipment as well as on board units is not trivial at all and partly requires hardware changes too.
Updating older ETCS versions (pre 2.3.0d) like those employed on the first lines of RFI and ADIF is astonishingly costly but apparently needs to be done. The complexity is given by the fact that the works need to be done while traffic is running and is much more than just "updating software" like we do on our PC's. I don't want to be a responsible engineer for that ...

I would be interestet A LOT in learning how interoperable ETCS L2 really is today ... so far, there is very little (if any?) cross border ETCS "roaming" partly due to the difficulties in hamonizing the different european national regulations into one huge ETCS/ERMTS "brain".
Specification has become a sort of "windows" in its inhomogenous complexity.
But hey, even windows has become stable after quite a number of iterations since 3.1 ... :-)
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Old August 5th, 2014, 03:07 AM   #12
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Well, the Austrian ETCS lines all operate on BL 2.3.0.d, apart from the eastern railway (first track to be equipped with ETCS in Austria), which is currently upgraded to this BL. EU law requires an update to this debugged version.

We might see some L2 roaming on the border between Austria and the Czech Republic soon. To my knowledge CD is (about to?) upgrading the Praha - Breclav railway to L2 standard. The other L2 sections in Austria won't see any L2 connections abroad in the near future.
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Old August 5th, 2014, 03:14 AM   #13
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DB Netz homepage on their plans regarding the introduction of ETCS on their network: http://fahrweg.dbnetze.com/fahrweg-d...migration.html

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Old August 5th, 2014, 08:34 AM   #14
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The Dutch map: http://www.totaaltrans.nl/wp-content...4/04/ertms.jpg.
Legend: Orange: Legacy system (usually ATB-EG/ATB-NG), Green: Already equipped with L2 (except for the havenspoorlijn [L1]), Purple: Intended to be equipped with L2 by 2028.
The intention is also to have all rolling stock equipped by 2022.
The biggest challenge is to make L2 work around locations with lots of train movements.
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Old August 5th, 2014, 12:22 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Momo1435 View Post
It's indeed still cheaper to just fit the trains with the equipment that is needed on a specific route. Especially since the number of international services that cross more then 1 border have gone down significantly in the last 20 years.
The number of services that cross borders without a change of motive power however has probably increased...
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Old August 5th, 2014, 12:27 PM   #16
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One reason is that it is hard to convince cash strapped railways to invest in a new system when a perfectly good system already exists.

The German LZB for example is a good system, and replacing it with ETCS doesn't really increase safety. The same applies for TVM in France, or ATB in the Netherlands.

The difference is for countries where an incentive to invest in something better does exist. And there we might see some significant expansion.

For example Luzemburg, Switzerland, Belgium and Denmark are scheduled to go all ETCS within a few years. Italy too, if I'm not mistaken.
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Old August 5th, 2014, 02:34 PM   #17
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These are the reasons I can think of:

1) Protectionism: there are only a handful of companies that have the knowledge to build trainborne equipment for a national safety system such as PZB, as it's a proprietary system. ETCS, on the other hand, is based on open standards.

2) Protecting the state railway: given 1), not having a standardized safety system adds a hurdle for companies wanting to ride trains (whether cargo or freight) in a country. The incubent operator doesn't suffer from this as their rolling stock is already equipped, hence giving them an advantage over newcomers.

3) Not seeing the need for replacement: some countries have protection systems that are just as good as ETCS Level 1 or are even a better fit. For instance, the ATB-NG system is quite similar to ETCS L1 and the German CIR-ELKE system offers some features that not even ETCS L3 offers.

4) Money: a full-out replacement of a nationwide safety system is very time consuming and very expensive. It would require premature write-down of lots of trackside and trainborne equipment, sometimes well before their financial and technical end of life. Anyone who has studied economics will tell you that that is a bad idea from a financial point of view.

5) Cost:benefit ratio: while ETCS does have its advantages, these do not always outweigh the cost and risks associated with a migration. If you have a railway line that only sees 6 trains a day (of which 2 freighters), the need for a complex system such as ETCS is very low and its installation will never be justifiable to the people that ultimately end up paying for ETCS. That is either the taxpayer (if government funds infrastructure, such as in most EU country) or the user (i.e. passenger or cargo company).

6) Project execution: a nationwide rollout of ETCS will be a multi-year project which has to be carefully planned, coördinated and executed. Every section of track has to be looked at, re-designed ("do we need this signal here?") and there needs to be lots of coördination with the rolling stock owners and operators.

After all, if you convert a section of track to be ETCS only the rolling stock using that track is forced to be equipped with the system or else they won't be allowed to use those sections anymore. Lots of rolling stock is decades old and while it hasn't been written off yet installing ETCS on it probably won't pay off - letting alone technical integration issues!


In countries that do decide to migrate to ETCS, you usually see the following pattern:
1) Work out an overall implementation plan, based on traffic intensity.
2) Re-allocate rolling stock planning so that lines that will be ETCS-only will get ETCS-supporting stock (retrofitted or purchased new), reallocate older stock to lines that will get ETCS later or won't be equipped at all.
3) Convert the infrastructure
4) Once infra is ETCS-only, either remove the legacy protection systems or leave it as a fallback system.


The latter is very appearant in Spain: although they use ETCS on most of their high speed lines, they also have ASFA installed on their HS rolling stock. Even the mono-current, non gauge changing Velaro sets (S/103) is equipped with ASFA as a fallback system.
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Old August 5th, 2014, 04:43 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by M-NL View Post
The Dutch map: http://www.totaaltrans.nl/wp-content...4/04/ertms.jpg.
Legend: Orange: Legacy system (usually ATB-EG/ATB-NG), Green: Already equipped with L2 (except for the havenspoorlijn [L1]), Purple: Intended to be equipped with L2 by 2028.
The intention is also to have all rolling stock equipped by 2022.
The biggest challenge is to make L2 work around locations with lots of train movements.
That's what I am looking for! Thanks a lot.

I asume the dotted lines into Germany indicate that there is no ETCS installed at the moment?
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Old August 5th, 2014, 07:24 PM   #19
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Quote:
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The latter is very appearant in Spain: although they use ETCS on most of their high speed lines, they also have ASFA installed on their HS rolling stock. Even the mono-current, non gauge changing Velaro sets (S/103) is equipped with ASFA as a fallback system.
Austria follows the same path. PZB is currently installed on the new L2 lines as well, but will be removed once ETCS has proven to be reliable.
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Old August 5th, 2014, 09:30 PM   #20
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RFI provides this map for Italy:
http://www.rfi.it/cms-file/immagini/..._ESERCIZIO.pdf

But again, without the information which specification version is implemented, the maps are pretty meaningless as interoperability is not given, even if politics want to believe that there is only "L1 and L2 and in the future L3". There are dozen "slightly" different implementations I guess...
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