The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS)

The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) is a European train control system that will be introduced onto the GB rail network over the next 30 years.

ERTMS is a traffic management system which is specified by Europe to provide a unified signalling and control system throughout the European area. A key component of ERTMS is the on-board signalling equipment (referred to as the European Train Control System or ETCS).

So as to ensure compatibility between differing suppliers, the Command , Control and Signalling Technical Specification for Interoperability (TSI) has specified the key interfaces needed between equipment on the train and equipment fitted to the infrastructure.

The implementation plan for ERTMS within Great Britain will take over 30 years, targeting equipment that is life expired. Accelerating the plan would incur significant additional cost which is unlikely to be acceptable in most places.

Industry activity

The railway industry is now actively engaged in progressing ERTMS projects in line with the implementation plan. Network Rail has been given the role of coordinating the whole industry towards achieving the plan which must also be dovetailed into the National Operating Strategy that transfer control of the railway into a small number of operating centres and introduces traffic management, which is also part of the ERTMS concept.

ORR activity

We have two formal roles associated with ERTMS. Firstly we evaluated the business case produced by Network Rail that demonstrated that there was a positive benefit to the rail industry by migrating the network to ERTMS. This assessment excluded any safety or capacity benefit but focussed purely on the cost of fitting and maintaining the system.

The second formal role for us is to act as the National Safety Authority (NSA) as required by the TSI. The NSA must authorise any constituent components specified in the TSIs. Authorisation must take place before equipment can be brought into service.

In addition to these formal roles, we are keen to encourage the industry to explore opportunities that ERTMS might offer to improve safety (staff protection and level crossings are two examples) and performance benefits (improved capacity and greater flexibility are two examples).

Last updated - 10 April 2014