Ricardo's expertise in ERTMS

Ricardo's expertise in ERTMS

What is ERTMS?

The European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS) is a mix of on-board technology and mobile communications that will help bring a unified signalling and control system throughout Europe.

But ERTMS is not unique to Europe: almost half of all investment in ERTMS to date has been in countries such as China, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.


Ever since Europe began building railways in the nineteenth century, they were typically planned, constructed and operated as national assets by each individual country.

The legacy of this parochial approach was a patchwork of differing technologies and operating rules from one country to the next.  Today, there are more than 20 different mainline signalling systems in use across the EU, each requiring bespoke components, certification and driver competences.

The complexity of so many incompatible systems and governing authorities in relatively close proximity has been a primary reason why cross-border rail travel in Europe has failed to reach anywhere near its full potential (consider that a train travelling from Amsterdam to London must cross ten system ‘boundaries’).

Ricardo provided technical support for London Thameslink's adoption of ETCS 

Benefits of ERTMS

By introducing a common technical standard for traffic control, Europe’s railways will be taking a significant step towards a truly seamless network.

As well as bringing interoperability between networks - in other words, making the EU’s different technical systems work together – the adoption of common standards will promote cross-border services, increase competition and reduce bottlenecks.

ERTMS will also spell the end for lineside signalling systems. Instead, drivers will use on-board signalling equipment (referred to as the European Train Control System or ETCS) that receives information direct from regional control centres.

By providing continuous communication-based data direct to in-service traffic, ERTMS promises to:

  • Increase capacity on existing lines: By reducing the headway between trains
  • Support higher speeds: ERTMS allows for a maximum speed up to 500 km/h
  • Improve safety and service reliability: Increasing rail’s competitiveness in passenger and freight transportation markets.
  • Reduce maintenance costs: With ERTMS level 2, trackside signalling is not required, reducing maintenance costs and service disruption.
  • Simplify the approval process: With a proven, harmonised system, product development and manufacture  becomes less complicated with suppliers able to bid for any opportunity.

The challenges for the ERTMS rollout

ERTMS was always a long-term vision.  Some countries are understandably wary of the upheaval and risks involved in replacing deeply-ingrained national rules and practices. For others, financing is a key challenge.

Meanwhile, rolling stock – procured long in advance and with up to 40 year lifespans – has often continued to be manufactured to existing requirements, with ERTMS compatibility a low priority.

And even the concept of a common, unified system has been tested as countries sought local amendments and variations.

But the technology behind ERTMS Level 2 is proven and is gradually being implemented with all new EU mainline projects required to adopt it. Now under the stewardship of the European Railway Agency (ERA), the technology will be standardised, supply chains will fall into line, and migration programmes will be mastered. There is no doubt that the general direction of the industry is towards digitally-based, centralised control systems like ERTMS.

How Ricardo can help you

We help infrastructure managers throughout the introduction of ERTMS systems.

Our experience with ERTMS (ETCS + GSMR/FRMCS), Automatische treinbeïnvloeding (ATB), Automatic train operation (ATO) and digitalisation means we will help you stay fully abreast of developments within the industry and provide bespoke solutions to challenges that arise in your own projects.

With deep technical knowledge of infrastructure and rolling stock design and maintenance processes, as well as specialist teams focused on vehicle-track interface issues, we can provide support across:

  • Providing advice on migrating from legacy systems
  • Business planning support and review
  • Feasibility analyses, tender preparation and contracting
  • Project engineering support re-signalling schemes
  • Human factors, including workload analysis and ergonomic advisory (eg design of driver cab and control centre environments)

We also have extensive experience of providing trusted assurance roles on ERTMS installations, including pioneering projects such as the first deployment of ETCS in the UK and the migration of the entire Danish rail network to ERTMS operation and control. For more information on how we can help, contact our teams using the from below.

Denmark's national migration to ERTMS

Denmark's national migration to ERTMS

As the appointed Notified Body and Independent Safety Assessor, find out how we are working with Banedanmark, the Danish infrastructure manager,  to help Denmark become the first Member State to migrate to ERTMS on a national scale.

Read more

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