Brussels, 17 March 2005
The European Commission and the rail industry (manufacturers, infrastructure managers and undertakings) today signed a memorandum of understanding in Brussels on the deployment of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERMTS) on a key part of the European network. “ERTMS is a major industrial project being implemented by Europe, a project which will serve to make rail transport safer and more competitive. We cannot create a European rail system without an overarching instrument to link the national rail systems together,” noted Jacques Barrot, Vice-President of the European Commission with responsibility for transport. “The fact that all the players have agreed to the wide-scale installation of this system should, over the next ten years, generate investment worth more than four billion on the major priority routes of the trans-European network alone. The leverage effect of the ERTMS project is further evidence that the 20.3 billion euros being proposed for the trans-European transport network in the 2007-2013 European budget is fully justified.”
The ERTMS concept is simple: information is transmitted from the ground to the train, where an on-board computer uses it to calculate the maximum authorised speed and then automatically slows down the train if necessary. The on-board computer has to understand the information sent from the ground, yet Europe is currently host to more than 20 different ground systems. For instance, no fewer than seven signalling systems have had to be installed on the high-speed Thalys train between Paris and Brussels, generating extra costs and an increased risk of breakdowns.
Deployment of ERTMS will enable trains to carry a single European system on board, thus reducing costs for infrastructure managers. Equally suited to high-speed and conventional railway lines, the system will significantly enhance network safety. Its deployment, which will entail analysis of the current and potential capacity of the European corridors, calls for a coordinated strategy involving all players in the sector, it being technically impossible to replace the increasingly outdated national systems all at once.
The memorandum of understanding sets out a strategy of coordinated migration, with the existing systems to be phased out as soon as possible. The Commission will appoint a coordinator to implement the memorandum of understanding with all the players involved. As regards financing, particular attention will be given, in relation to the trans-European networks, to providing funding for studies and projects focusing on the system's deployment.
First developed in the 1990s thanks to a European research programme, and then funded via the trans-European network budget, ERTMS represents a considerable breakthrough in the promotion of network interoperability. After 15 years of joint work by the industry and the operators, the system has now reached maturity and is ready for large-scale deployment. The indicative timeframe for that deployment is 10 to 12 years.