ETCS milestone reached on Belgium’s railway network

Belgian railway infrastructure manager, Infrabel, has equipped over half of the Belgian railway network with the European Train Control System (ETCS). For Global Railway Review, Benoît Gilson, CEO of Infrabel, provides details about this milestone, the challenges and the importance of this strategically important safety project for Belgium and Europe.

ETCS milestone reached on Belgium’s railway network

ETCS put into service on strategic Walloon rail axis

Since 12 March 2023, ETCS has been operational on the ‘dorsale wallone’, the strategic rail link between Liège and Namur. After more than three years of preparatory work, Infrabel teams have commissioned 122km of ETCS tracks. The stations of Liège and Namur had previously been equipped with this system.

In addition, 240 signals were fitted with the necessary ETCS equipment, nearly 1,300 ETCS beacons were installed in the tracks, 40 signal booths (housing IT equipment) were installed along the tracks, and 40 GSM-R antennas were installed to transmit the information between the infrastructure and the trains on which the system relies. Furthermore, 769 possible train routes on this track axis were also tested to check the optimal operation of this new signalling device.

Today, 3,333km of main tracks have been equipped with ETCS

From now on, approximately 100 passenger trains and a dozen freight trains running daily between Liège and Namur will be able to use this technology, which guarantees the highest level of rail safety. Indeed, ETCS constantly monitors the safety of each train ride and the speed of trains. The system intervenes when a train driver exceeds the maximum, permitted speed, by automatically slowing down or even applying (emergency) braking when, for example, approaching a red signal or in the case of busy train traffic.

With the new commissioning of ETCS on this section, a symbolic milestone has been reached: 52% of Belgium’s railway infrastructure is now equipped with this system. This corresponds to 3,333km of main tracks on the domestic rail network (in total, there are 6,399km of main tracks). The Belgian high-speed network reached border‑to‑border in late 2009 and has been equipped, since its inception, with the ETCS safety system or an equivalent with the same functionality.