ERTMS History

Today, trains are equipped with up to seven different navigational systems. Each is extremely costly and takes up space on-board.

  • ETCS, the European Train Control System, is an automatic train protection system (ATP) to replace the existing national ATP-systems;
  • GSM-R, a radio system for providing voice and data communication between the track and the train, based on standard GSM using frequencies specifically reserved for rail application with certain specific and advanced functions. For more information on GSM-R, please click here.

ERTMS aims at replacing the different national train control and command systems in Europe. The deployment of ERTMS will enable the creation of a seamless European railway system and increase European railway’s competitiveness.

ERTMS as a
global standard

More than 29000 track km is equipped with ERTMS
Approximately 2900 vehicles are fitted with ERTMS

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.

signed in 2012

The introduction of Baselines 3 provides stability and increased confidence to a system that encourages future ERTMS deployment.

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.

The specifications were subsequently reviewed to include additional functionalities and better meet the needs from the railway companies and infrastructure managers. The specifications currently in force are contained in the SRS 2.3.0d, which was adopted by the European Commission in April 2008. To ensure that ERTMS is constantly adapted to the railway’s needs, technical specifications are maintained under the lead of the European Union Agency for Railways in cooperation with the signalling industry and railway stakeholders.

In parallel to this specification work, a joint effort from the European Union and the member states to finance ERTMS/ETCS has been implemented.

Four successive Memorandums of Understanding were signed in 2005, 2008, 2012 and 2016 by the European Commission and the railway stakeholders to further deploy ERTMS on Europe’s rail network. Six ‘priority’ corridors were identified for the development of ERTMS, whilst specially crafted financial incentives were designed to support both infrastructure and onboard installation. In 2005 Karel Vinck has been nominated as European coordinator to work jointly with the rail sector on further deploying ERTMS along the EU’s rail network. In 2014 the coordinator came up with a Breakthrough Program with the aim to boost the implementation process.

In July 2009, the first adoption of the European ERTMS Deployment plan marks a new milestone for ERTMS. For the first time, the retrofitting of ERTMS on a number of listed lines (the six ERTMS corridors and additional freight lines) becomes mandatory, with deadlines ranging from 2015 to 2020 depending on the lines section.

In 2017, the release of the ERTMS Baseline 3 release 2 set of specifications, marked a major step forward for the ERTMS European Deployment Plan (EDP) as this release represents a mature and stable version of the system, able to solve any interoperability issues.

In February 2017, the CEOs of Alstom, Ansaldo STS, AZD Praha, Bombardier, CAF, MerMec, Siemens and Thales, as members of UNISIG, renewed their commitment for the development of ERTMS by signing individual Letters of Intent in the presence of DG Move Director-General Henrik Hololei, ERTMS Co-ordinator Karel Vinck and EU Agency for Railways Executive Director Josef Doppelbauer. This commitment aims to secure long-term stability for the ERTMS specifications following the adoption of Baseline 3 Release 2 and promote a ‘swift and coordinated’ deployment across Europe.

On their side, Member States were also asked to draw up National Implementation Plans and to submit them to the European Commission before 5 July 2017. These National Implementation Plans shall be updated at least every 5 years.

At the Single European Rail Area (SERA) Convention in Brussels on 20 June 2017, EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc presented a first version of the ERTMS Deployment Action Plan which included the necessary steps to address identified barriers to ERTMS implementation and to achieve ERTMS interoperability.

The final version of the Action Plan was adopted during the Control Command and Railway Communication Conference (CCRCC) organised by ERA in Valenciennes on 15-16 November 2017. The follow-up of the ERTMS Deployment Action Plan is performed by the ERTMS Stakeholder Platform Coordination Subgroup including representatives from UNIFE, UNISIG, DG Move, ERA, EIM, CER, ERFA and EPPTOLA.

ERTMS Deployment Action Plan

On 15-16 November 2017 The final version of the Action Plan was adopted

In parallell to these European developments, ERTMS has today established itself as a worldwide standard.

Countries as diverse as China, Taiwan, South Korea, India, Algeria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, New Zealand or Australia have launched major ERTMS investment programs. ERTMS is expected to become a unique signalling system for railways worldwide.