Information published on 12 September 2011 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr 254.

Switzerland: the introduction of ETCS marks an important step for railway safety

By the end of 2017, Switzerland’s current rail safety systems will be replaced by ETCS technology – the new European standard for train control. To achieve this SBB is investing over 300 million Swiss francs in the technology, which will bring a number of advantages: in addition to simplifying network access and cross-border traffic with Europe, SBB is marking an important step in boosting the safety, capacity and reliability of rail traffic, improvements that will benefit the whole country.

ETCS technology is currently implemented along the Mattstetten–Rothrist high speed line and in the Lötschberg Base Tunnel. This system enables trains to operate at 200 km/h every two minutes along these track sections. From 2025, SBB will gradually equip the whole of the conventional rail network with new ETCS Level 2 technology. This decision will have a significant impact on the future development of the Swiss rail network. SBB will considerably improve the safety, capacity and reliability of rail traffic, enabling their system to cope with an expected increase in traffic levels.

SBB will begin by replacing all the legacy trackside safety systems across the network with modern ETCS technology (ETCS Level 1 Limited Supervision) by 2017. The volume of investment represents a total of just over 300 million Swiss francs. In partnership with suppliers Siemens and Thales, rail safety will be improved thanks to the replacement of around 11,000 signalling devices. The work will be carried out so as not to disrupt scheduled operations. SBB has been planning this project for the last three years: “Converting the current rail safety systems to ETCS Level 1 is an important step in Switzerland’s ETCS strategy, which will make the rail network more fit-for-purpose in the long-term” stated Philippe Gauderon, Head of SBB Infrastructure.

The replacement of legacy rail safety systems will bring a number of advantages. From the end of 2017, rail transport companies will benefit from easier access to the Swiss network. Whereas up to four different systems are currently needed on board vehicles to interpret safety data, in future only a single ETCS system will be necessary. Rail vehicles’ current equipment will nevertheless still be useable without restriction in the future and will not need to be replaced immediately. Since ETCS allows a harmonised European safety standard, it facilitates transition to other networks installed with ETCS technology and, hence, cross-border traffic with Europe. European transport policy already obliges EU member countries to equip new routes with ETCS technology. The plan is also to fit European freight corridors with ETCS, in order to encourage the carriage of goods by rail.

(Source: SBB)