DidYouKnow posts related to SURCO courses

European Rail Traffic Management System

The European Rail Traffic Management System – ERTMS

This month, in preparation for our upcoming SURCO – Rail Operations course which will take place in the fall of 2021, we have decided to focus on the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS)- an intiative that will be instrumental in the creation of a Single European Railway Area.

Creating a Single European Railway Area

Written by: Lidia Slawinska, Consultant

Rail transport forms an integral part of the intermodal supply chain. European ports have spent the last decades investing in port-rail connections that make it easy to transfer freight from the ship onto a train and vice versa. Countries have been focusing on standardising or facilitating transfers between different gauge dimensions in European countries. France has even gone so far as to start banning flights (passenger and cargo) between destinations that can be reached by train within a radius of 2 hours from the points of origin.

There is no doubt that in the sustainability focused post-Covid world rail is taking centre stage. This is why, in this month’s issue of #DidYouKnow, we decided to focus on the European Rail Traffic Management System.

On the opening day of the European Year of Rail 2021, the EU transport commissioner Adina Valean has emphasized the need to incorporate a digital layer to the physical rail infrastructures to improve network use, increase capacity and enhance safety. This means deploying the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) and automating where necessary. “Only when we have a single system in Europe will we stop interchanging locomotives at borders,” Valean said. Instead of focusing on investing in new railway lines, operators and public authorities need to work on increasing capacity on existing lines, whilst working on the new digital infrastructure which will complement the physical infrastructures helping to make it more economical and accessible. So what exactly is this system?

What is the ERTMS?

Essentially, the European Rail Traffic Management System was created with the goal of replacing the various different national train control and command systems prevalent across the European Union – and therewith creating a seamless European railway system, and increasing the region’s global competitiveness. It can be looked at having two basic components:

  • The European Train Control System (ETCS) – an automatic train protection system (ATP) that will work towards replacing existing national train protection systems;
  • The GSM-R, a radio system that will provide voice and data communication between the tracks and the trains. It does so by using GSM frequencies specifically reserved for rail application.

 What are the benefits?

ERTMS is working towards being the train control system that brings significant advantages in terms of maintenance costs savings, safety, reliability, punctuality and traffic capacity. These can be classed as following:

  • Interoperability – no longer would international train management systems clash
  • Increased Safety – The speed of the trains travelling across the system would continuously be monitored, therewith providing greater international train protection;
  • Increased Capacity – Tracking all trains across one network will allow for a reduction in the minimum distance between the trains, therewith increasing overall capacity;
  • Higher performance – Punctuality is increase because of the higher level of monitoring and evaluation prevalent across the ERTMS. This also lowers the potential for failures, further increasing the standards of the network;
  • Greater competitiveness – the seamless market for rail transport on the European continent will make rail more competitive in relation to road transport. Cross-border rail services will also be facilitated, further improving rail’s outlook;
  • Lower maintenance costs – The costs would be reduced from a lower number of trackside components. Being separated into various levels of development, this reduction would increase with the increase in higher levels;
  • Staff – Though not replacing any jobs, the ERMTS would digitalise certain sections of the rail management system, therewith solving an issue related to ageing staff – currently troubling the rail industry;
  • Digitalisation – ERTMS, and its upcoming new radio transmission subsystem Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) is an enabler of digitalisation in the railway system;
  • Sustainability – By making the rail sector more competitive, ERTMS helps to level the playing field with road transport and ultimately provides significant environmental gains.

Already operational in Europe, the system is also slowly becoming the train control system of choice in other countries such as China, India, Taiwan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

What are the drawbacks?

As with any system, there are potential problems that can arise through the use of the ERMTS.

  • Complexity – the ERTMS sub-system comprises complex interfaces, which need to be developed to function seamlessly across the entire network.
  • Cost – the ERTMS comes with high costs both in terms of trackside deployment and retrofitting.
  • Time – With regard to ERTMS trackside deployment, demanding requirements in many public procurements resulted in lengthy tenders and delays in project delivery. Timing was also detected in errors found in the final testing stages – which should have been detected during the verification and validation processes.
  • Interoperability – Different parts of the network may have different technical specificities, and they might also have different operational requirements. The European Railway Agency is working with individual states to eliminate National Technical Requirements (NTRs) in each country to improve the ERTMS’ interoperability
  • Funding – The funding provided by each state alone is not sufficient. A significant portion is needed to come from the EU – and the EU has expressed its commitment to support the ERTMS.

The future of ERTMS

Currently the European Rail Transport Management System is already in use in commercial projects across the 9 core network corridors. Though still in its early stages, the system is being trialed to make sure that it can be fully deployed in the European area in the near future. Rail transport is integral to sustainable and clean transport, and therewith ensuring a seamless and innovative door-to-door supply chain that incorporates various modes of transport. Currently the European Union has selected Matthias Ruete as the European coordinator for the ERTMS. Ruete will be working with the rail sector to further deploy ERTMS along the EU’s rail network, giving the necessary political impetus for the project and the realisation of the Memorandum of Understanding signed in 2016 between the European Commission, the European Union Agency for Railways and the European rail sector associations (CER, EIM, EPTTOLA, ERFA, the ERTMS Users Group, GSM-R Industry Group, UIC,UNIFE and UNISIG). Altogether, all of this work will prove invaluable towards the creation of a single European Railway Area – furthering the vision of efficient, sustainable and innovative European transport.

 

Sources:

Railway Lines

The essential railway infrastructure and equipment – Spotlight on Spain

The European railway system transports around 1.6 billion tonnes of freight each year. The railway is central to the EU’s strategy for a more sustainable transport sector, helping ensure economic and social cohesion and connecting Europeans within and between Member States.

The density of the national rail networks reflects the different geographical characteristics of the countries, with the Nordic and Baltic countries having the lowest rail network density on the continent.

Rail has the potential to play an important role in accelerating the reduction of transport emissions. “Rail only represented 2% of total transport energy consumption in the EU, while representing for 11.2% of freight and 6.6% of passengers in all modes of transport in 2016” (data from the Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the European Council, 2019). However, rail freight also has a number of other advantages: improved safety of goods compared to other means, lower accident rates, more storage capacity as a large volume of cargo can be transported over very long distances, and the potential for intermodality, if necessary.

Maintaining and renewing the existing network to improve safety and operational performance as well as ensuring a reliable service is a major challenge for infrastructure managers, especially in the face of increased traffic and demanding performance targets set by national authorities and operators.

This results in a number of disadvantages that caused this means to not be one of the most used for the transport of goods. It is conditional on the existence of infrastructures that are non-existent in some European countries. In addition, this means that, unlike other means, there are very few occasions when it can reach the warehouse or the final destination of the goods without the help of complementary means (such as the road).

Mandatory Intermodality

Rail transport falls under the intermodality umbrella, as it requires road transport to chauffer the goods from the point of origin to the railways, and to their final destinations. Rail gauge: The width of the gauge can differ from one country to another, which can cause difficulties in the transhipment of goods, and thus result in a significant increase in the expense of money and time.

The EU’s railways continue to grow. Rail markets are gradually opening up and safety levels remain high. This sector is increasingly demanding in terms of performance, innovation and responsiveness to customer needs. Rail transport’s fight to increase its modal share remains centered around interoperability and cross-border coordination issues. Corridors are a key part of the Commission’s policy to boost rail freight. The Rail Freight Regulation and the train drivers Directive are still being evaluated in order to boost and facilitate rail transport.

Spain

Locomotive of RENFE - the Spanish railway operator

In Spain, the railway represents around 4% of the total freight transport market. This market share has decreased in recent years in favour of road transport. Although part of this trend is common to other countries, the rail market share in Spain is much smaller. For example, rail represents 19% of the total goods market in Germany and 15% in France –  nearly four times the Spanish equivalent.

If the sector can convince transporters to opt for rail motorways to reduce costs, and get exporters and importers to bring their goods to the ports through the use of the rail, it is likely to grow in the coming years.

To improve international rail freight traffic, France and Spain have re-launched two rail motorways between the two countries, through a call for expressions of interest. This marks the first step in finding out whether or not the infrastructure is viable in the region.

Intrigued? The Escola organises courses focusing in particular on maritime rail and maritime-road intermodal solutions, called SURCO. Contact us if you’d like to know more and to find out when the next courses will take place.

Written by:

  • Raquel Nunes – Co-founder of Youngship Portugal

#DidYouKnow – Rail transport and the development of the Iberian Peninsula as a Hub – Atlantic Corridor

Should Spain and Portugal jointly boost investment in infrastructure of rail transport? This is a question that is currently on the minds of the operators and actors active in the rail transport sector on the Iberian peninsula. To coincide with the European Union’s goals on sustainable development, the sector still has a long way to go to garner a portion of the market share currently occupied by maritime and road transport.

“The Portuguese and Spanish governments should increase their budgets for rail and port infrastructure” is the European Commission’s recommendation. Portuguese ports are considered as potential European import hubs because of their geographical location on the Atlantic coast. In this context, investment in port and rail infrastructure should be encouraged. The European rail system transports around 1.6 billion tonnes of goods each year. Rail transport is fundamental to the European Union’s strategy for a more sustainable transport sector, for economic and social cohesion and for connecting European countries within and between Member States.

Some of the main European modal corridors link Portugal and Spain, thus contributing to the improvement of connections between the centre of the EU and its peripheral regions, whilst strengthening the position of the Iberian Peninsula as a portal to Western Europe.

There are two main European corridors entering the Iberian Peninsula: the Atlantic Corridor and the Mediterranean Corridor. Looking at the Spanish rail network, we have the Atlantic corridor, which connects the French border of Irun/Hendaye with Portugal via Vitoria, Burgos and Valladolid, with a branch that goes south via Madrid, Lisbon and the port of Algeciras. The Mediterranean Corridor runs from the French border at Portbou/Cerbère to the port of Algeciras and Seville along the Mediterranean coast, through Barcelona and Valencia. In  Portugal, the Atlantic Corridor begins in Lisbon and the port of Sines, then moves eastwards through Spain (through Badajoz-Elvas). Another branch goes to Aveiro and Porto, and then moves eastwards to Spain through Vilar Formoso-Salamanca.

“The mission of the Atlantic Corridor principally covers the management of existing infrastructures, without additional investments, through centralized management of capacity allocation, traffic management and costumer relationship.” This project arose with the common objective of the governments of Portugal, Spain, France and Germany to increase the competitiveness and modal share of international rail freight transport and to jointly overcome technical and operational barriers. The Atlantic Corridor is integrated into the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) and is connected to the Mediterranean Corridor and the North Sea-Mediterranean Corridor. The extension of the Atlantic Corridor to Germany will allow direct connections with two other corridors, namely the Rhine-Alps and the future Rhine-Danube.

With a total length of more than 6,200 km, the main heterogeneous technical characteristics in terms of infrastructure that need to be improved stand out: the presence of the European gauge (1435 mm) in France and Germany and the larger Iberian gauge (1668 mm) in Portugal and Spain; electrified sections with differing voltages; and different signaling systems. The aim of the Atlantic Corridor is to coordinate investment in order to homogenize the technical characteristics of the infrastructures throughout the participating countries in this project.

EU railways continue to grow. Rail markets are gradually opening up and safety levels remain high. This sector is increasingly demanding more innovation and responsiveness to customer needs. Rail transport’s fight to increase its modal share continues to center around interoperability and cross-border coordination issues. Corridors are essential elements of the Commission’s policy to boost rail freight transport. If the sector can convince haulers to opt for rail motorways to reduce costs, and exporters and importers to transport their freight to ports by rail, it is very likely to grow in the coming years and thus continue to align itself with the EU’s mission towards the sustainable development of transport on the continent.

Intrigued? The Escola will delve into these and other railway related subjects in great depth during the upcoming Port2Rail course, set to take place in October 2019. Check out the course programme here.

Written by:

  • Raquel Nunes, Training Programmes & External Relations Manager (Escola Europea – Intermodal Transport)