Key risks for ERTMS deployment in Sweden

Sweden’s rail infrastructure manager Trafikverket was forced to prolong the deployment of ERTMS twice this year. First, this was done for the southern regions of the country and then for the Malmbanan line, which is located on the north. In both cases, the reason was related to the onboard equipment on the rolling stock and the track modernisation. What other risks could the country face in the further rollout of the new signalling system?

Trafikverket and its contractors Omexom, SIBEK, Sweco and Bombardier Transportation are deploying the European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS) on the Malmbanan line, one of the northernmost railways in Europe, for the second consecutive year. It will also become first Sweden’s railways, which is equipped with ERTMS. This summer was an important period for the project. Computerised switchgear was put into operation at a site north of Gällivare, a station on the halfway of the route. This installation is a key point for ERTMS on the northern section of the Malmbanan line.

At the same time, the works are being carried out on the other parts of the mentioned route. Initially, Trafikverket had planned to launch the first ERTMS-equipped sections in early November of this year. This June it changed the schedule and postponed this date for late April – early May. “The reason for the change is the additional time needed to ensure that the vehicles operating the pilot tracks are converted to ERTMS and ready for traffic on the upgraded track,” the Swedish rail infrastructure manager explained its decision. It also noted that the entire Malmbanan line will be equipped with ERTMS in 2022, as scheduled.

Big loss

The mentioned reason for the delay was specified in a report, prepared for Trafikverket by Denmark-based independent consultancy company Ramboll. The document indicates many possible risks for the ERTMS deployment. According to Ramboll estimations, they could cause the loses or additional investments that could be evaluated at up to approximately 13 billion Swedish kronor (around 1.3 billion euros) for the entire period (2020–2035) of the ERTMS programme in Sweden. To address the risks, the consultancy company recommends to intensify communication between Trafikverket, train operators (both passenger and freight) and authorities in order to find the possible solutions.

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Malmbanan Iron Ore Railway, source: Wikipedia
Malmbanan Iron Ore Railway, source: Wikipedia Commons

Rolling stock

It is worth to highlight five key risks. Most of them are related to the rolling stock. The most important among them is that the locomotives will be out of service during installing the onboard equipment. Ramboll estimates a possible loss of revenue for train operating companies at around 800 – 900 million Swedish kronor (77.5 – 87.2 million euros).

The other rolling stock risks are the necessity to upgrade the vehicles ahead of launching the new signalling equipment on the tracks, lack of capacity at the workshops to carry out this retrofitting and modernisation f some locomotives for very short distances. “Regional traffic operators with around 150 vehicles will receive a very small share during 2023-2025 of its traffic network upgraded to ERTMS. This means that they need to upgrade their entire train portfolio several years earlier than they would otherwise have been necessary,” the Danish company noted.

Lack of investments

And the last but not least risk is dealt with money. The total amount of the investments needed for the ERTMS conversion of the rolling stock was estimated at 3 – 5 billion Swedish kronor (around 291 – 485 million euros). “Many actors, primarily on the freight side, have difficulties in financing investments at all. Ramboll assesses a high probability that a number of smaller players will not be able to continue their operations. Larger players may carry out downgrades of traffic to some extent,” the consultancy company evaluates.

Are you interested to know more about ERTMS? This topic will be discussed during the second edition of the RailTech Infra Forum virtual conference to take place on 30 September and 1 October. To know more, visit the event website and register to participate.

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Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko is editor of online trade magazines RailTech.com and RailFreight.com.

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