Friday 8 October 2010
Radio / GSM-R Specifications

The European Railway Agency and the UIC sign a Memorandum of Understanding to strengthen cooperation in the field of GSM-R Specifications

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As part of the ERA “GSM-R Conference” in Lille, Mr Marcel Verslype, Executive Director of the European Railway Agency (ERA) and Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, General Director of the International Union of Railways (UIC) signed on 5 October a Memorandum of Understanding aimed at strengthening cooperation in the field of GSM-R Specifications.

It is clear that GSM-R, the dedicated rail radio system for voice and data communication, has become an essential part of the work to enhance railway interoperability, to maintain rail’s high safety standards, to reduce maintenance and operation costs, to better inform operational employees and to provide information systems for clients in both passenger and freight traffic.

The development of the GSM-R system is a joint collaboration between the European Commission, manufacturers, and railway administrations, with the central support of UIC in its capacity as a technical body recognised by the rail sector. In 1995 UIC developed the initial version of the GSM-R system specifications called “EIRENE Specifications”, which forms the basis of today’s GSM-R, and instigated a MoU which committed 32 railways to switching their investment from analogue radio systems to the implementation of GSM-R. The Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) and the European Rail Infrastructure Managers (EIM) are also directly involved, as GSM-R is part of the European Commission’s Technical Specifications on Interoperability (TSI).
To date GSM-R has been rolled out over 68,000 km of track in Europe, and member states are well advanced in the migration from their old railway radio systems to GSM-R. It is expected that the roll-out will cover about 140,000 km by 2015. GSM-R is also being implemented outside Europe: China, India, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Algeria.

With this Memorandum of Understanding, ERA and UIC recognise that the future development of the GSM-R specifications is necessary: to close existing gaps and fix implementation issues on the one hand; and to take account of technological progress and the evolution of public standards for mobile telecommunication services on the other.

This development must not only be managed on a European level and in compliance with the requirements laid down by the EU Railway legislation (particularly by the Interoperability Directive 2008/57 of the European Parliament and of the Council), but also on a global level. This underpins the central role of UIC, its global status and the recognition of the rail sector for its technical expertise.

The requirements defined in the current specifications will be revised with a view to classifying them into two mutually exclusive categories:

  • requirements necessary as basic parameters to satisfy the essential requirements of the Interoperability Directive;
  • requirements that are valuable for operators, customers and suppliers in terms of product and system standardisations, and requirements that are applicable for the worldwide system.

The requirements in the first category will be organised in a document issued by the Agency. The Agency will recommend to the Commission to use this new document in the Technical Specifications for Interoperability. The UIC grants to the Agency the right to edit and publish in this document the content of the “EIRENE specifications” necessary for interoperability, so that the users as well as the suppliers will continue working on the same base as today and will avoid possible misleading interpretations, while at the same time allowing more efficient verification of compliance with interoperability requirements
The work streams and responsibilities of UIC and ERA are separate and run in parallel. In order to ensure the consistency of European and global developments, periodic bilateral review meetings will be organised, at least twice per year, between UIC and ERA.

For more information on GSM-R please visit the following websites: or

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The European Railway Agency HQ located in Valenciennes, France
From left to right: Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General and Marcel Verlsype, ERA Executive Director, signing the Memorandum of Understanding on GSM-R Specifications