The fast track to ERTMS

The fast track to ERTMS

A bit of history
ERTMS Solutions > About ERTMS > A bit of history

A bit of history

ERTMS history begins in the late 1980€™s. Security and control systems are used to ensure the good circulation of the trains. 23 of those systems are implemented in Europe and are, most of the time, not compatible with one another. Consequently, a train travelling through several countries has to be equipped with the security and signalization systems of each country it crosses. This adds to travel time, maintenance costs and takes place on-board. In addition, line-side signalization appeared as insufficient when it comes to high-speed trains. That is the reason why the European Railway Research Institute (ERRI) decided to create a group of railway experts (A200) to develop the requirements of ETCS. The project framework included 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.

In 1995, The EC defined a strategy for the further implementation of ERTMS on the European Rail Network and the first tests on sites were conducted in Germany, France and Italy that same year.

1998 saw the creation of the Union of Signaling Industry (UNISIG). This group includes Alstom, Siemens, Ansaldo, Bombardier, Invensys and Thales and is dedicated to the finalization of the ERTMS/ETCS technical specifications. ERTMS was finalized in April 2000, with the final signature on ERTMS specification Class 1.

Efforts were also made to finance the implementation of ERTMS. In fact, three Memorandums of Understanding were signed in 2005, 2008 and 2012 by the European Union and the railway stakeholders to deploy the ERTMS on the European railway network. As a part of that project, 6 priority corridors for the implementation of ERTMS were defined and a European ERTMS Coordinator was appointed to facilitate the deployment of the system. The EU is supporting the development of ERTMS through the mechanism of the TEN-T programme, Structural and Regional Funds, and Cohesion Funds.

With the European ERTMS Deployment plan adopted in July 2009, the retrofitting of ERTMS becomes mandatory for the 6 priority corridors and other freight lines with deadlines ranging from 2015 to 2020 (see the up to date map on

According to, more than 29000 track kilometers and 2900 vehicles are equipped with ERTMS worldwide in 2014. More than 50% of the ERTMS investments come from non-European countries: mainly China, India and South-Korea.

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