European Rail Traffic Management System

European Rail Traffic Management System

ERTMS/ETC "Test Tracks" (and Pilot Projects)

Over the past decade, industrial giants and European governments have strived to attain rail interoperability, so that trains can cross borders without stopping. Today, each country still has its own rail "language" for managing the movement of the trains on its network.

In order to redress these incompatibilities, the European Rail Traffic Management System project has been set up to create unique signaling standards throughout Europe.


ETCS is the new control-command system
GSM-R is the new radio system for voice and data communication

Together, they form ERTMS, the new signaling and management system for Europe, enabling interoperability throughout the European Rail network. 

Today, trains are equipped with up to six different navigational systems. Each is extremely costly and takes up space on-board. A train crossing from one European country to another must switch the operating standards as it crosses the border. All this adds to travel time and operational and maintenance costs.

With trends for privatisation fuelling governmental calls for accountability, now more than ever, operators must be competitive. Railways need to offer speed and convenience, not only for very high speed trains, but for all mainline trains and equally for freight operations.

Following the decision taken by the European Transport minister in December 1989, the EC. embarked upon a project to analyse the problems relating to signaling and train control. At the end of 1990, ERRI created a group of railway experts (A200) to develop the requirements of ETCS. In June 1991, Industry ( Eurosig ) and Railways ( UIC, ERRI A200) agreed the principles of tight co-operation in order to consider the requirement specifications as the base for industrial development. The project framework included a new on-board equipment based on open computer architecture (EUROCAB), a new discontinuous system for data transmission, (EUROBALISE) and a new continuous transmission system (EURORADIO). At the end of 1993, the EU council issued an Interoperability Directive and a decision was taken to create a structure to define the Technical Specification for Interoperability.

At the beginning of the 4th Framwork Programme, in 1995, the EC defined a global strategy for the further development of ERTMS with the aim to prepare its future implementation on the European Rail Network. The global strategy described in the "Master Plan of Activities" included the development and validation phase. The objective of the validation phase was to perform full scale tests on sites located in different countries (France, Germany and Italy).

In the summer of 1998, Unisig , comprising the European Signaling companies was formed to finalise the specifications. The Class P SRS was delivered on 23rd April 1999. With the final signature on ERTMS specification, Class 1, on 25th April 2000, ERTMS has finally arrived providing substantially higher performance levels for the railways.

Great success has already been achieved to test the interoperability on EMSET and Vienna-Budapest trials. Test Track Italy has carried out trials in 2001. The revised specifications SRS 2.2.2 have been approved in February 2002 and are on the way to be introduced in the Technical Specifications for Interoperability. There are a number of commercial projects at varying stages like the West Coast Main Line, the HSL-Zuid, Rome-Naples, Switzerland, Berlin-Halle-Leipzig, Athens and Madrid - Lleida, that have been awarded and partially financed by the EC. The UNISIG was created in 1998, comprising all the European Signalling Companies.  Its task was to finalise the ERTMS/ETCS specifications.

On Tuesday 25 th April 2000, Mr Miguel CORSINI (Chairman of UIC) and Mr Brian Crowther (Vice-Chairman of UNIFE) handed over to the European Commission, a copy of Functional Requirements Specifications (FRS) and System Requirement Specifications (SRS) of ERTMS - Class 1.

The countries of the EU are now set to pass the necessary laws which will make the use of ERTMS-based signaling solutions mandatory not only on all new high-speed lines, but on all signaling installations.

In February 2002 the revised SRS version 2.2.2 were approved and will be introduced in the TSIs through the Change-Control process managed by AEIF, the European Association for Railway Interoperability.

The introduction of European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) to the UK rail network is a major challenge since it involves a fundamental change in the way the UK railway operates. The project, which started in May 2001, centres around the proposed national rollout of ERTMS Level 2 without lineside signals on the rail network. After three years of preparatory work, the programme is now entering a new phase in which RSSB will provide important input into the operational design, which will lead to the development of standards, rules and signalling principles to support ERTMS operation.

The National ERTMS Programme (NEP) Team has been focused on making the business case for, and planning the application of, ERTMS. Now that part of the work has been completed, the strategy is to devolve much responsibility for the delivery of ERTMS to the parties that can actually make it happen.

Four industry partners are involved in the initial early deployment of ERTMS on the Cambrian Line in Mid Wales. Implementation of ERTMS technology will be piloted on the Cambrian Line from just outside Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli. To mitigate the risks associated with National fitment the four partners will work on this ’pilot’ for implementation of the National change to the system. Network Rail will assume responsibility for infrastructure fitment, Arriva Trains for passenger train fitment, EWS Railways for freight train fitment and RSSB for the development of standards, rules and signalling principles to support ERTMS operation. NEP retains responsibility for the business case and overall programme management.

For RSSB, the major issues involved with the introduction of this new technology are:

  • Ensuring system change is introduced in a safe and cost-effective manner
  • Ensuring the migration strategy on the Cambrian Line causes least disruption to passenger and freight customers
  • Recognition that the Cambrian Line EDS is a key stage towards successful national implementation.

Since 5 January 2004, RSSB has undertaken a programme of work to understand and scope the work required to complete the operational design and turn such a design into standards, rules and signalling principles for ERTMS.

The keynote dates for the Cambrian Early Deployment are:

  • March 2007 when the first fitted train will be deployed
  • Full operational service in 2008 (11 passenger and 4 freight trains providing the full complement of rolling stock for the line)


The EC Directive 96/48/EC on High Speed Rail Interoperability requires Member States to operate compatible signalling systems. Signalling suppliers from across Europe have worked together to produce ERTMS - the European Rail Traffic Management System. ERTMS combines automatic train protection and train control through ETCS (European Train Control System) with the possibility of enhanced network capacity through more efficient traffic management.

Following the Uff/Cullen report into train protection, a pan industry ERTMS Programme Board (EPB) was established to provide an industry response. The Board is co-chaired by SRA and Railway Safety, with representation from Railtrack, ATOC, FOCs, ROSCOs and RIA. The ERTMS Project Team (EPT) was formed to investigate implementation strategies for the system with seconded representation from across the breadth of the industry.

RIA has formed a special interest group to input into the findings of EPT, and to inform EPB discussion. That group, known as RIASIG, mirrors the European Unisig group by involving all 6 ETCS suppliers.

The final report of EPT was completed in May of 2002 and is available from the SRA website. RIA issued a Press Release welcoming the report.

Since the publication of the final report, the implementation of ERTMS in the UK has transferred to SNEP - the Single National ERTMS Programme. SNEP encompasses the work achieved by EPT as well as that from West Coast TCS. The Year One Progress report of SNEP has recently been published and can be found on the SRA website.

Comparison of the Estimated Fatality Saving Benefits from Rail Investment

Type of Rail Investment Estimated cost per actual life saved

ERTMS Level 2 with a 7.5% capacity benefit (no cross modal or trackworker benefits) £99.2m
ERTMS Level 2 with a 7.5% capacity benefit (with cross modal benefits) £13.8m
ERTMS Level 2 with a 7.5% capacity benefit (with cross modal and trackworker benefits) £12.5m
ERTMS Level 2 with a 10% capacity benefit (with cross modal and trackworker benefits) £9.9m

The ERTMS system aims at two major functional aspects:

Traffic Commmand/Control
Ensures safe operation of the trains in the network

Traffic Management
Deals with the traffic and infrastructure management issues to enable the optimisation of the capacity of the lines and the utilisation of the fleet

  • Interoperability
  • Highest speeds up to 500 km/hr
  • Automatic Train Protection (ATP)
  • Smaller Headways
  • Moving Block Operation (Level 3)


  • Major equipment reduction
  • Better Assets Utilization
  • Highest Level of Safety
  • Possibility of More Trains per line
  • Less Trackside equipment
  • Higher Operational Throughput & Lower Cost
  • Interoperability or railway networks
  • Open market for signalling systems

For more general information about ERTMS, visit

Featured suppliers on this project: