Thales and DB Netz test the new European Train Control System ‘ETCS signal-controlled’ for the first time

Thales has, at the end of august and for the first time, successfully tested the new European Train Control System ‘ETCS signal-controlled’(ETCS Level 1 Limited Supervision) at the border between Germany and Switzerland, adjacent to  the Cargo Corridor A (Rotterdam – Genoa). Thales is one of three official providers of ETCS Level 1 limited supervision and is partnering on this project with Deutsche Bahn.

Why implementing ETCS in this European corridor and on the border lines commonly operated?

The European rail network is currently still largely dominated by national signalling technology. This means that cross-border traffic can only be realised with additional effort: double equipment of vehicles and infrastructures.   

In order to facilitate cross-border passenger and freight in Europe, the European Union with the industry and railway companies have created the European Train Control System - ETCS. It is a standardized signalling and train control technology that allows trains to cross national borders without the need to stop to change locomotives. Trains fitted with ETCS are able to operate freely over suitably equipped track in any country. Cab signalling is a vital part of ETCS. This makes it possible not only to get rid of conventional signals but also to operate safely at speeds up to 500kmh.

There are currently two levels of ETCS:  ETCS level 1 and ETCS level 2. ETCS Level 1 limited supervision is a specific mode of ETCS Level 1.

Today, more than 40,000 km of ETCS track is now in operation across 24 countries and Thales is one of the market leaders.

Extensive teamwork at the border line

From Mid-August to early September, Thales and Deutsche Bahn teams, as well as officials, stationed at between Erzingen and Constance (crossing the border and Switzerland) conducted the tests of the new system.

Thales’s mission was to connect its ETCS signal-controlled (Level 1 limited supervision) to a wide range of interlockings: from the first mechanic interlocking systems of the last century to state-of-the-art electronic’s ones.

To validate the system, more than 120 individual tests were conducted at nights. For this purpose, DB/SBB had to occupy all local interlockings and provide additional staff on the Desiro traction vehicle (the locomotive).

Thales signalling solutions makes vision a reality

During the entire test phase, the ETCS signal-controlled behaved as defined in the specifications and the planned guidelines, which makes it a complete success. In addition to the field tests, simulations are ongoing until the end of the year in the Thales laboratory in Berlin.

Today, Thales is commissioned with the realisation of three ETCS projects on the Cargo Corridor A, in South Germany and Switzerland:  

  • Hub Basel (border)
  • Erzingen-Constance (border)
  • Ingelheim (part of the corridor A Rotterdam-Genua)

Thales has already won the tender for the framework contract to participate in the gapless equipment of corridor A with ETCS signalling.