‘On-board ETCS system can be more flexible and cost efficient’

Lineas HLR 77 shunting locomotive

The current way in which the on-board safety system ERTMS is being implemented can be way more flexible and cost efficient, says CEO Stanislas Pinte of the Signalling Company. Current market offers for on-board system ETCS are tied to an ERTMS Baseline, and cannot be easily upgraded without going through another offer and attached costs. The Signalling Company is working on a new ETCS system that can be easily upgraded and customised.

The current practice for ETCS is that owners of rolling stock buy products tied to one version of ETCS, even though the standard will change. The ETCS standard is dating back to 1994, and has been updated two times. But the current baseline 3 will also become outdated, says Pinte. “ERTMS baseline 4 is going to come at some point. We ensure that the product can be updated.” Stanislas Pinte is one of the experts at the online RailTech Infra Forum 2020 about the latest ERTMS developments.

The Signalling Company is working on providing a new competitive ETCS on-board solution. The company is a joint venture between two Belgian firms: ERTMS Solutions, an industry leader in railway testing, maintenance and systems integration, and Lineas, the largest private rail freight operator in Europe. “The current ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach taken by many vendors simply does not work for the railway industry. We need a different model where we can buy standard components that can be licensed once, then configured at a reasonable cost by engineering teams or contractors”, says Bruno Vanlede from Lineas.


Next to the ERTMS baseline, also other elements in the rail system will change, such as the communication system. The current signalling system GSM-R is already obsolete, and will be replaced with FRMCS (Future Railway Mobile Communication System) with 5G as a basis. The Signalling Company prepares the system to be flexible for when FRMCS arrives.

Other ‘game changers’ that will arrive are according to Pinte for instance improvements in ETCS Onboard speed and distance measurement, satellite positioning and Automatic Train Operation. “The Signalling Company intends to transform locomotives into versatile pieces of hardware which are endlessly customizable by adding applications for things such as speed measuring and energy savings, much like an IPhone with the Appstore.”

Over the air

Another thing that can be improved about the current ETCS systems is the installation. Today for all products specific computers are needed and the installation is manual. The Signalling Company aims for a smaller and simpler installation, which should be ‘as easy as installing an app on your smartphone.’ With it, users should be able to install the system as well as upgrade their existing system, or add certain features.

The signalling company is finishing the ETCS design this year and starts developing the software next year. The system is scheduled to be approved on a first prototype of HLD77 locomotive for Lineas in February 2024.

Want to learn more about ETCS and the future of connected rail? Stanislas Pinte is one of the experts who will give his view during the Railtech Infra Forum on 28 and 29 October 2020. Here you can find more information about the programme and register for this online event.

Author: Esther Geerts

Editor RailTech.com

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