These ETCS projects are selected to receive European subsidy
The European Commission has selected 135 transport infrastructure projects to receive subsidies from CEF transport, an EU funding instrument with a budget of 5,4 billion euros for this round. Eighteen of the selected projects are aimed at the development and rollout of the European Train Control System (ETCS) in Europe, what are these projects?
Through the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), the European Union funds projects that ‘promote growth, jobs and competitiveness through infrastructure investment at a European level’, as the EU puts it. In addition to energy and digital infrastructure, there is a programme for transport.
The rollout of ETCS in Europe is ongoing, albeit it at a slow pace. Especially the on-board installation of the system on locomotives is slow in coming. There are currently an estimated 41,000 railway vehicles operating in Europe, 7,000 of those with ETCS, Marcin Wojcik, policy officer at the European Commission, said during RailTech Europe last month. This means there is a long way to go for the implementation of ETCS.
On-board ETCS installation
Fourteen projects for the installation of ETCS Level 2 on board railway vehicles have been tapped for EU funding in this call by CEF Transport. In Belgium, 221 electrical motor units (EMU) used for passenger rail services by railway company SNCB will be retrofitted with ETCS. The EU will contribute 22,5 million euros. Danish operator DSB is to install ETCS on-board equipment on DSB vehicles operating on national and international line across the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Core Network Corridor. The CEF has earmarked 4,7 million euros, but it is not specified for how many vehicles. On-board ETCS installations to the tune of 44 million euros will take place in Sweden in the period 2021-2025. The project will deploy ETCS on different types of vehicles owned by eleven vehicle owners. 433 vehicles will be equipped, some running internationally on the Scandinavian-Mediterranean corridor both to Denmark and Norway.
Most of the other projects all concern ETCS on-board installation for freight locomotives. In Czechia, 122 electrical locomotives are included in the programme. The trains will circulate in Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Germany, Austria and Poland. The EU will contribute with an amount of 6,6 million euros through the CEF. Also, ETCS will be deployed on 115 vehicles of České Dráhy, operating on the TEN-T corridors Baltic-Adriatic, Rhine-Danube and Orient/East-Med for around 15 million euros. Czech-based freight operator Metrans will equip 47 rail freight vehicles with ETCS, which will see 2,5 million euros in funding by the EU.
For DB Cargo, three prototypes for the retrofitting of BR187 DB Cargo locomotives with ETCS will be developed and funded with 2,3 million euros. This will accelerate interoperable freight operations of DB in seven countries. German-based Railpool will deploy ETCS on 198 freight locomotives of various types and variants, receiving 11 million euros. German manufacturer Siemens Mobility will carry out a serial installation of ETCS on 300 electric Vectron locomotives in the period 2021 to 2023, funded with 7,5 million euros from CEF.
The EU supports the rollout of on-board ETCS at Italian national operator Trenitalia as well. Funds will be directed to deploying the system on regional and intercity fleets in Italy, as well as installations on the high-speed fleet in Spain, which Trenitalia is involved in as shareholder of new operator ILSA. The operator will use the same ETR1000 trains that already run in Italy, known as the Frecciarossa (Red Arrow). Meanwhile, 40 locomotives used by Italian freight operator Mercitalia of the type TRAXX E.494 will be retrofitted with ETCS using 3.5 million euros in funding by CEF.
A fleet of Alpha Trains’ international freight locomotives will also be equipped with ETCS. Installations on 63 locomotives of the leasing company headquartered in Luxembourg are funded by the EU with 5 million euros. In Portugal, the ETCS on-board deployment of Medway vehicles that operate on the Atlantic and Mediterranean corridors in Portugal and Spain will be supported by 3.9 million euros from the CEF.
Trackside ETCS installations
The largest beneficiary of all ETCS projects is the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure, which will get 59,3 million euros from the CEF fund for ETCS deployment on the Stuttgart railway node. It involves 114 kilometres of railway track, and is considered a pilot project for the implementation of the first digital signalling system in an urban area.
Belgian infrastructure manager Infrabel will receive 49,6 million euros in funding for the installation of ETCS on six railway sections with a total length of 377 kilometres. Their ambition is that trains will only drive with ETCS in Belgium by the end of 2025. Currently, at least 30 percent of the country’s railway network is equipped with the digital signalling system.
In Czechia, ETCS will be installed trackside on the section Kralupy nad Vltavou – Hrobce by infrastructure manager Správa Železnic. In addition, it will be installed across 36,3 kilometres on the route Praha Uhříněves – Praha – Lysá nad Labem, around Prague railway node. The two Správa Železnic projects will receive 24 million euros in subsidies in total. Danish infrastructure manager Banedanmark will deploy ETCS along 250 kilometres of double track railway line along the Core Network Corridor in Western Denmark, backed by 22 million euros.
All of the installations that are funded – both trackside and on-board – concern ETCS Level 2, baseline 3. This is a radio based system where the train is continuously sending data to the Radio Block Centre (RBC) to report its exact position and direction. It is not completely radio-based, as eurobalises are still used in the track as passive positioning beacons. But the normal lineside signals are no longer necessary for operations with vehicles that also have the system on board. Together with the radio-based communication system GSM-R, ETCS forms the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), which allows safer operations and more trains on the tracks.
A CEF Transport budget of 25,8 billion euros was set for the period between 2021 and 2027, which will be spent in several rounds. In this first call, which closed on 19 January 2022, 399 applications were submitted. Following evaluation, 135 proposals were selected and retained for CEF funding, amounting to about 5.4 billion. The EU contribution for the projects will take the form of grants co-financing the total project costs.
The EU Member States approved the selected projects on 21 June 2022, and the Commission will now adopt the financing decision. The European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency (CINEA) will start the preparation of the grant agreements with the beneficiaries of the projects. Next to CEF, several rail infrastructure projects are set to receive funding from the Military Mobility fund. The call for this funding was launched at the same time, but the evaluation was sped up in face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
A full list of the selected projects for CEF Transport can be found here.