EU funding: Rail transport: new agreement for the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS)


 European funds

Related EU Grant Loans Programme(s):
 Grants in the frame of the Trans-European Networks for transport

The European Commission and the rail industry (manufacturers, infrastructure managers and undertakings) today signed a memorandum of understanding in Rome aimed at accelerating deployment of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERMTS) throughout Europe.

Deployment of ERTMS, which is equally suited to high-speed and conventional railway lines, will enable trains to carry a single signalling system on board. This new European concept will reduce operating costs and enhance the efficiency of the system.

ERTMS can succeed only if, on the one hand, there is full technical compatibility between the tens of thousands of kilometres of track and the trains to be equipped and, on the other, deployment is carried out swiftly and in a coordinated manner. Failing to equip just one kilometre of a route can seriously jeopardise the competitiveness of rail transport on the entire route.

The memorandum of understanding signed today is aimed at addressing these two fundamental issues, mainly by:

* using a single technical baseline[1] for all railway lines equipped with ERTMS in the European Union up to the end of 2012;
* getting manufacturers to agree to include software updates in new contracts at a client’s request. Clients (rail companies and infrastructure managers) currently complain about the excessive costs imposed by manufacturers;
* agreeing on a programme enabling a new version of the specifications[2] to be drawn up by the end of 2012 in such a manner that trains equipped with this new version can run on lines equipped with the old version;
* improving and harmonising test procedures for checking the compatibility and compliance of equipment;
* accelerating deployment of ERTMS, particularly by adopting a binding European plan and equipping new models of engine.

In the autumn the Commission will present a draft of this binding European deployment plan and at the beginning of 2009 will publish a new call for proposals amounting to around €250 million to provide financial support for the deployment of the system from the trans-European transport networks budget. Deployment of ERTMS on infrastructure is also eligible for financial support from the Regional Fund and the Cohesion Fund.


Over twenty different signalling systems currently coexist on railway lines in Europe. For instance, the seven signalling systems installed on the high-speed Thalys train plying between Paris and Brussels increase the risk of breakdowns and generate extra costs. These costs are such that engines do not generally cross frontiers.

The ERTMS concept is simple: information is transmitted from the track to the train, where an on-board computer uses it to calculate the maximum authorised speed and to slow the train down automatically if necessary. The on-board computer therefore has to understand the information sent from the ground.

ERTMS can bring about a significant increase in competitiveness. That is particularly true in the case of freight when the system is deployed in a coordinated manner along a route and is accompanied by relevant measures, such as harmonisation of the operating rules or enhancement of the infrastructure if necessary. On the Rotterdam-Genova corridor, for example, the volume of goods transported could be doubled by 2020, which would be the equivalent of an additional heavy goods vehicle passing along this route every 37 seconds.

Around 2 000 km of track is currently in use in the European Union but contracts already cover almost another 30 000 km, as well as 5 000 vehicles, within Europe and even outside. These contracts consolidate the European rail industry’s leading position in the world.

In March 2005, the Commission signed a first memorandum of understanding with the sector with the chief aim of studying the feasibility and economic viability of deploying ERTMS on major trans-European network routes. The rail-freight and high-speed sectors are particularly affected by this project, which was first developed thanks to a European research programme, and then funded from the trans-European network budget.

Press Room - European Commission

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