By the end of 2017, SBB’s current rail safety system will be replaced by ETCS (European Train Control System) technology. ETCS allows standardised access to the European rail network and is a sound basis for increasing the safety, capacity and reliability of rail traffic. Under the terms of a service provision agreement with the Swiss Confederation, SBB is investing 300 million Swiss francs (250 million euros) to upgrade the safety system. On 13 July the first ETCS balises were installed at Airolo on the Gotthard line, marking the start of a programme to install balises at 11,000 locations covering the entire Swiss mainline network. The balises were installed by representatives of the Swiss Federal Office of Transport (FOT), Swiss Federal Railways, and their industry partners Siemens and Thales.
This ETCS technology with cab signalling is currently implemented on the Mattstetten-Rothrist high speed line and in the Lötschberg Base Tunnel. SBB’s aim is to roll out ETCS Level 2 across the whole of the conventional rail network by 2025, allowing headways of two minutes for trains travelling at 200 km/h. ETCS Level 2 will enable signalling information to be transmitted directly to the driver’s cab. This will not only improve the safety and reliability of traffic, but also enable the system to cope with an increase in traffic levels as trains will be able to follow each other more closely.
Monitoring speed to enhance safety
The replacement of legacy rail safety systems will mean rail transport companies can 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. This will reduce the cost of infrastructure and rolling stock maintenance. Rail vehicles’ current equipment will nevertheless still be useable in the future and will not need to be replaced immediately.
Since ETCS is a European standard, this technology facilitates interoperability between networks. 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. The major Rotterdam-Genoa corridor, which crosses Switzerland, is to be fully equipped.