ERTMS on board and on track – the 20th anniversary

Posted: 23 January 2009 | | No comments yet

Summary of the UIC ERTMS World Conference.

Summary of the UIC ERTMS World Conference.

The ERTMS development at European level started 20 years ago in 1989 and UIC has been actively involved since the beginning.

One of the standing activities consists of the dissemination of information about the status of work and exchange of views with users and producers. In total, approximately 15 events have been organised, the most recent were in Berne (September 2007), Budapest (April 2006), Rome (December 2004) and Leipzig (December 2003).

After extended phases of research, development, prototyping and pilot applications, a consolidation of ETCS and GSM-R has now been reached and formally decided for 2012 under the lead of the European Railway Agency which is the system authority for ERTMS.

In Europe, ETCS is currently in commercial operation in nine countries on more than 2,500km of lines. The medium term roll-out of ETCS and GSM-R is stimulated and supported by activities of the ERTMS and rail corridor coordinator appointed by the EC. Besides this, ERTMS is of increasing interest for important railway networks outside Europe.

Role of Spain

The next ERTMS World Conference will take place in Malaga, Spain, from 31 March to 2 April 2009. Spain has played a leading role in the development and deployment of ERTMS, so the country is an apt location to hold this prestigious event.

Early functional tests under the lead of the CEDEX institute in Madrid in the frame of the EMSET project, marked the beginning of real pre-competitive cooperation between the UNISIG industry partners for the development and test of ETCS components. In the mean-time, Spain has become the biggest market for high-speed train services with approximately 1,000km of lines and more than 200 trainsets in commercial operation. Nowadays it is a full scale test site for interoperability between track-side and on-board ETCS and GSM-R products of all European suppliers. Spanish experts from the government, research and engineering institutes and railways have acquired high reputation for their impartial solid technical and operational expertise. After a difficult phase with a need for solving technical problems in relation with the ETCS Level 2 application, a full breakthrough has now been reached also with this demanding concept. In general, the high-speed train service proves to be a big commercial success. Last year, the large scale implementation of ERTMS on conventional lines was initiated by the signing of important contracts for the suburban network of Madrid.


The 2009 UIC ERTMS World Conference will be held at the Palacio de Ferias y Congresos de Málaga – FYCMA – a spectacular venue which boasts a blend of modern avant-garde architecture and Mediterranean tradition. It offers a multipurpose and functional business centre which complies with international events.


An accompanying exhibition during the whole event will offer an excellent opportunity for networking with all major suppliers of ERTMS products and services. The event will be officially opened with a Ceremony followed by a cocktail reception in the evening of 31 March 2009. In the second evening (1 April 2009), a Gala Dinner will be served by the Spanish hosts ADIF and RENFE in the Auditorium of Torremolinos.

Conference Programme

The slogan for the conference programme is ‘ERTMS on board and on track’. The presentations during 1 and 2 April 2009 will be structured into six ‘Sessions’ ending with a ‘Closing Panel’ chaired by high-level representatives of bodies with high involvement and responsibility for the corresponding subjects.

Session A:  Spanish strategy and experience with ERTMS

Representatives from ADIF, RENFE, the Spanish government, as well as from the ETCS and GSM-R supply industry, will outline the Spanish ERTMS case and present specific highlights and lessons learnt from the impressive achievements.

Session B:  ERTMS Business case for Train Operation Companies

Speakers from the European Commission, Trenitalia, Thales and Rail Cargo Austria will deal with ERTMS key issues related to international trans-border train operations.

Session C:  Corridors, operation rules and processes

Speakers from RNE, the ERTMS users group, the GSM-R interest group and Bombardier Transportation will outline the challenges and recent achievements related to ERTMS based train operation on the European corridor lines.

Session D:  Certification, homologation and conformity assessment

Speakers from ERA, Siemens Mobility, the GSM-R interest group and CEDEX will present information about the particularities and the latest evolution especially with laboratory simulation and tests in this complex area with emphasis on quality, costs and realisation time for ERTMS projects.

Session E:  ERTMS worldwide

Speakers from across the industry and some of the concerned railways will outline several major ERTMS projects in Australia, China and other Far Eastern networks, Turkey and Mexico. The arguments in favour of ERTMS solutions for these countries will also be explained.

Session F:  ERTMS next steps and future solutions

Speakers from railway enterprises RFI and DB Fernverkehr, as well as from the ETCS and GSM-R industry, will show perspectives with ERTMS for the medium and long term future.

Closing Panel

The event will terminate with a Closing Panel consisting of high-level representatives of UNIFE, SBB, GSM-R industry, CER and EIM.

Technical visit

Following an established tradition for these conferences, a technical visit will be organised on 31 March 2009 by the Spanish hosts ADIF and RENFE, with a practical live demonstration of ERTMS on the high-speed line section between Malaga and Cordoba. During the trips, the functioning of ETCS Level 1 and GSM-R and the change from LZB to ERTMS will be demonstrated and explained. Exhibitions of rolling stock and infrastructure related equipment in the stations of Malaga and Cordoba will give additional in-sights.

Conference document:  book on ERTMS

As seen at earlier conferences, UIC will make an effort to provide a documentation of sustainable values related to ERTMS. Given that this year is the 20th anniversary of ERTMS, a book called “Compendium on ERTMS” has been edited by UIC under the lead of the author of this article. It intends to give a comprehensive initiation to the complex ERTMS issue for interested readers from the political, academic, normative, industrial and rail traffic related scene. It is hoped that this will contribute to facilitate the further development and extension of ERTMS. A group of competent authors explains numerous characteristics of the European projects Traffic Management Layer, Integrated European Signalling System (INESS), European Train Control System (ETCS) and the railway communication system GSM-R, which are widely recognised to be the four pillars of the ERTMS concept. A general introduction and chapters on the European background for ERTMS, an overview on the ERTMS implementations in Europe and worldwide, considerations about the potential benefits with ERTMS and conclusions with outlook on the long term future will allow to better understand the ERTMS concept. The book in English is published by the Eurail press/ DVV Media Group and will be available also on the public book market.

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