30 May 2012

More fluency in the transport of freight

Today, cross-border operations account for a major share of rail freight operators' activities. Specialists from the most important companies in the railway industry believe that investing in ERTMS today is a rational choice for freight operators that takes into account the evolution of the European rail network.

Although rail transport offers very significant advantages in environmental terms, data show that road freight still dominates the inland freight transport market with a market share of more than 70% in the European Union against a figure of 17% for rail.

What are the advantages of a unique signalling system for freight operators? Due to the existence of several signalling systems in Europe today, freight locomotives have to be equipped with the appropriate signalling systems - and even in some cases they must be changed at the border, increasing costs and travelling times. As a unique signalling system, ERTMS provides the solution to the lack of interoperability of the existing rail networks in Europe.

Can ERTMS help improve freight operations' performance? Indeed, besides interoperability, ERTMS offers advantages in terms of capacity, speed and reliability - three key components for successful rail operations. These advantages explain why nearly 50% of all ERTMS investments are made outside Europe, countries such as China, Turkey and Taiwan having already implemented the ERTMS to a large extent.

Already today ERTMS is used as a unique system on some crucial European freight routes such as the Betuweroute or the Lötschberg tunnel. Increasingly, passenger-lines equipped with ERTMS will be used for freight operations - for instance, in Italy, the use of High Speed lines for freight operations at night/off peak times is foreseen. In total, an estimated 17,000 km of railway tracks are already contracted to work with ERTMS in Europe, 5,000 km of which are already in operation.

The European ERTMS Deployment Plan provides strong guarantees for freight operators wishing to equip their locomotives with ERTMS. Therefore, the plan foresees the equipment of more than 10,000 km of railway lines by 2015 and 25,000 km by 2020; this deployment is mandatory (part of EU Law). The lines consist in the 6 full ERTMS corridors (the busiest cross-border freight routes in Europe) and a list of designated freight lines (the 10th freight corridors included in Regulation 913/2010). These requirements will also apply to freight locomotives, more precisely, trains ordered after 2012 or put in service after 2015 will necessarily have to be equipped with ERTMS.

Freight operators can already take advantage of version 2.3.0d whilst safeguarding their investment, for example by including "upgrade clauses" in contracts in order to guarantee that their rolling stock will be equipped with the baseline 3 of ERTMS as soon as it becomes available (in 2012, according to latest information).

The article can be read here: RailwayPro