European Rail Traffic Management System

The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) is an EU "major European industrial project" to enhance cross-border interoperability and signalling procurement by creating a single Europe-wide standard for railway signalling with the final aim of improving the competitiveness of the rail sector.

It contains three basic elements:

1. GSM-R (Global System for Mobiles - Railway) - the communication element containing both a voice communication network between driving vehicles and line controllers and a bearer path for ETCS data. It is based on the public standard GSM with specific rail features for operation e.g. Priority and Pre-emption (eMLPP) - Functional Addressing
Location Dependent Addressing - Voice Broadcast Service (VBS) - Voice Group Call (VGC) - Shunting Mode - Emergency Calls - General Packet Radio Service (GPRS option) - Fast call set-up.

2. ETCS (European Train Control System) - the signalling element of the system which includes the control of movement authorities, automatic train protection and the interface to interlockings. It allows the stepwise reduction of complexity for train drivers (automation of control activities) - It brings track side signalling into the driver cabin - It provides information to the onboard display - It allows for permanent train control - Train driver concentrates on core tasks.

3. ETML (European Traffic Management Layer) - the operation management level intended to optimise train movements by the "intelligent" interpretation of timetables and train running data. It involves the improvement of: real-time train management and route planning - rail node fluidity - customer and operating staff information

The deployment of a unique harmonised train command/control and telecommunication systems and the creation of trans-European traffic management facilities constitute crucial elements toward the achievement of a real integrated rail network.

Railways, as guided ground systems, use a dedicated infrastructure. Their attractiveness and efficiency depend, to a large extent, on the underlying means and methods for traffic management and on the ability to maximise the capacity and throughput of different types of traffic in a consistently safe and reliable manner.
The typical functional structure of a rail traffic management system is displayed in the following figure:

Train control-command systems are very much linked to specific railway requirements from a functional and technical point of view. They therefore demand rail-specific solutions and are covered by legislative requirements, which dictate that the signalling systems in general and the underlying train control-command systems are designed to very stringent safety standards. The technical ability of trains, of a given operator, to run on a particular infrastructure is basically determined by the control-command subsystems, which bridge the gap between the ground and the moving trains.

The train communication between the ground and the moving trains requires, by definition, a wireless radio-link. Basically, the same methods and technologies can be applied, as those which are developed for other modes of transport with far bigger market size, especially the general radio mobile communication used by road vehicles and private individuals. These state of the art mobile communication systems are based on geographical cells which are interlinked by a dedicated fixed network. In a railway-owned communication system, it is possible to exploit the fixed network part for other telecommunications applications. Contrary to the past, one integrated communication system with a central technical platform can satisfy all railway communication needs either with voice or data transmission. The one of most particular interest for this report is the data transmission for the control-command of trains.

Rail traffic management is a key area for the medium-term optimisation of rail services. Increasingly, rail traffic management systems employ more “intelligent”, highly computerised technology. The technical life cycle of these installations is generally shorter than the more durable parts of railway infrastructure and rolling stock. A considerable amount of the costs lies in the decentralised part, i.e. in the external signalling installations, as well as in the distributed devices for train control-command and train communication. A well-planned strategy for procurement and maintenance of these systems, covering the whole life cycle, is therefore of crucial importance.

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European Commission & Interoperability objectives

The European Community is committed to contributing to the development of transport area. In this framework, the Community must take the necessary measures to ensure the interoperability of the railway networks, particularly in the field of technical standardisation.

On 23 July 1996, the EU council issued an Interoperability Directive on rail network (96/48/EC) and decided to create a structure to define the TSI (Technical Specifications for Interoperability): the European Association for Railway Interoperability (AEIF), bringing together representatives of the infrastructure managers, railway companies and industry.

The AEIF is now replaced by the European Railway Agency (ERA) which is directly in charge of developing the ERTMS implementation on 6 dedicated corridors.

Decision 2001/260/EC on the characteristics of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) stressed the importance to develop a common standard for command-control, signalling subsystem and railway operations; in order to ensure interoperability.

This issue deals with infrastructures, fixed installations, logistic equipment and rolling stock and takes into account the requirements from operators, industries and governments for safety, reliability, human health, environmental protection, technical compatibility and operations.

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Wednesday 27 July 2022