ERTMS or European Rail Traffic Management System is a system backed by the European Union aiming at the harmonization of the railway signalization in Europe. It has two components. The first one is the European Train Control System (ETCS), which is an automatic signalling, control and train protection system designed to replace the many incompatible safety systems currently used by European railways, especially on high-speed lines. The second one is the Global System for Mobile Communication-Railway (GSM-R). It is an international wireless communications standard for railway communication and applications, which provides 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. In short, ETCS + GSM-R = ERTMS.
The main goal of ERTMS is to replace the different national train control and command systems in Europe and by doing so, implementing a homogeneous European railway system and increase European railway’s competitiveness. Even if the initiative emerged from the EU, the system is being implemented in many countries outside the EU.
There are three ERTMS levels:
– Level 1:
At level 1, ERTMS can be installed in parallel with the existing signalization system. So, each train still uses the system it is equipped with. Eurobalise radio beacons are placed at the foot of the signals, and optionally upstream the signals. Those balises pick up signal aspects from the trackside signals via signal adapters and telegram coders (Lineside Electronics Unit LEU) and transmit them to the train as a movement authority together with route data at fixed points. The on-board computer continuously monitors and calculates the maximum speed and the braking curve from this data. Because of the spot transmission of data, the train must travel over the balise to obtain the next movement authority.
– Level 2:
Level 2 can also be implemented in parallel with the existing signalization system not only on classical lines but also on high-speed lines. On level 2, the data transmission is not done via balises but via GSM-R. The train position is continuously communicated via the network to the control centre, which in turn, indicates the driver what he should do (braking, stopping, etc.) The trackside signals are no longer required and the train position is determined via Eurobalise. If a problem occurs, the system can still be used in level 1 thanks the Eurobalises. The main advantage of ERTMS level 2 is that a train moving on a track almost instantaneously transfers its movement and route data to other trains on the same track. That instantaneous transmission allows a better fluidity of movement on the track.
– Level 3:
This ERTMS level is still under development. At level 3, precise position data is transferred to the control centre by the train itself and not by trackside detection equipment. In that way, there is no need for fixed blocks, which can be used by one train at a time. The train becomes a moving block and is responsible for its integrity.
ERTMS Solutions developed its activities around this standard, which is complex and adds workload for all railway actors worldwide.
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