Changing the future

Posted: 28 January 2010 | | No comments yet

Hungarian State Railways Co. (MÁV) is characterised by limited market and financial opportunities which are determined by the obligation to sustain the level of service, the application of obligatory ticket prices, limited budgetary compensations and by limited debt raising opportunities. After a couple of decades, the first years of the 2000s brought a flourishing era for the company, however this positive change takes Hungarian State Railways Co. into the future with lots of obstacles.

Hungarian State Railways Co. (MÁV) is characterised by limited market and financial opportunities which are determined by the obligation to sustain the level of service, the application of obligatory ticket prices, limited budgetary compensations and by limited debt raising opportunities. After a couple of decades, the first years of the 2000s brought a flourishing era for the company, however this positive change takes Hungarian State Railways Co. into the future with lots of obstacles.

Hungarian State Railways Co. (MÁV) is characterised by limited market and financial opportunities which are determined by the obligation to sustain the level of service, the application of obligatory ticket prices, limited budgetary compensations and by limited debt raising opportunities. After a couple of decades, the first years of the 2000s brought a flourishing era for the company, however this positive change takes Hungarian State Railways Co. into the future with lots of obstacles.

Since 2008, the MÁV Group has continued to operate under a new configuration but its common objectives remain; the first and foremost of these being the retention of our position as a market leader, modernisation and the improvement of our economic indicators.

The first noticeably important step took place in January 2006, when the Cargo division of MÁV was transformed into MÁV Cargo Co. In 2007, MÁV-Start Passenger Co. was established, and Záhony-Port Co., a company formed from our organisational unit that manages our logistical services in the region of Záhony at the Ukrainian border, also began its independent operation. As planned, they were followed on 1 January 2008 by our traction and engineering division, which was converted into two companies: MÁV-Trakció Co. and MÁV-Gépészet Co. The primary role of MÁV Co., as the controlling entity, is the central management and background services organisations (purchasing, finance and human resources, security services, etc.), while it also contains the whole Infrastructure Business Unit. With the operators mentioned above, 24 companies concluded a network access contract with MÁV Infrastructure. But that transformation was only the first step, as strategic and technological development continues.


In the present situation, the financing opportunities, complemented by bulky European Union (EU) sources, are barely sufficient for the maintenance and operation works and cannot cover the need for the local renewals that were continuously cancelled in the past due to lack of funding. As a result of this there is a large difference between the expected technical situation and the real one. Moreover, the company has to continue to face the challenges resulting from the current economic crisis. Important steps have to be made and savings have to be achieved. MÁV Co. must fulfil the obligations of the Government Decree regarding the crisis, and the promise made to the EU. This should not be misinterpreted: the crisis is a driving force but also an opportunity for MÁV Co. to create long-term sustainable public transport. The Infrastructure Business Unit of MÁV Co., as an organisation providing transport opportunities for operators, has a great role in achieving this target.

Development strategy

The Infrastructure Business Unit of MÁV Co. operates and maintains MÁV Co’s 7,683km railway network, the main characteristics of which are shown in Table 1.

Table 1: Network Characteristics

Table 1: Network Characteristics

The renewal aspects of the so-called first category lines, such as the lines belonging to the TEN-T basic railway network, are formed by EU standards and requirements, by the National Railway Regulation and by the International agreements (AGC, AGTC). These aspects are further determined by basic requirements set by interoperability and national transport policy.

Our most important objective is to develop the Hungarian sections of the Trans-European network to the aforementioned expected technical level. Our main task is to make the service and technical quality level homogeneous on our network, especially on the corridors (and on the suburban sections of lines) with the provision of the following:

  • Identical technical parameters
  • Planning homogeneous systems, implementing equipment with similar functions
  • Creating standardised facilities and equipment for passenger transport
  • Harmony with other business units, setting common targets

MÁV Co. is making efforts to develop facilities for passenger transport, change the aged signalling equipment, implement modern traffic control and remote controllable heavy current and signalling equipment, and to implement 60kg superstructure on these lines to enable them to reach speeds of 160km/h and 225kN axle load weights.

We are paying great attention to the implementation of ETCS Level 2 on the network, which is important in terms of interoperability and a condition for transport with speeds over 120km/h. The GSM-R radio telecommunication system is an essential precondition on the network. On the basis of GSM-R, changes in traffic technology have resulted in information systems (visual and audio) becoming remote controlled.

Our developments in the past

In the past decade, great development works took place on the network in order to reach the aforementioned objectives. Loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB) provided outstanding funding before Hungary’s accession to the EU. Projects between 1999 and 2009 worth €201 million made the rehabilitation of many railway lines and modernisation of Újpest Railway Bridge over the River Danube at the Northern part of the capital city possible. Within the framework of the Environment Protection and Infrastructure Operational Programme a further 3.5 billion HUF was made available between 2006 and 2007 which was used for urban station development programmes.

In parallel with the accession of Hungary to the European Union, ISPA and Cohesion Funds were made available. Between 2002 and 2010, €773 million was used for the rehabilitation of Hungarian sections of international corridors. This amount will also contribute to the planning of future developments and projects.

Some recent developments of signalling equipments

The most significant investment in 2008 was the implementation of electronic interlocking at Győr station. This system is the new generation of Elektra type interlocking. During the developmental works some phases of the track building were carried out with the use of the new interlocking. In October 2008, MÁV Co. implemented the electronic interlocking at Szajol station, and then at Tiszatenyő and Kétpó stations in November of the same year. All of these stations lie on the ERTMS Corridor E.

On 13 December 2008, an electronic interlocking was implemented on the Zalabér-Batyk section of the Boba-Zalalövő line. This equipment serves three stations. Control of the equipment is only possible at Zalabér-Batyk. The system also involves 14 pieces of BUES 2000 type electronic train protecting barrier. At the end of 2008, MÁV Co’s network contained 23 electronic lineside barriers.

Since May 2009, new electronic interlocking has been operating at Zalaszentiván, and at Ukk, Nemeskeresztúr and Jánosháza from December 2009. As a result of such development, MÁV Co. is able to provide a modern section of line between Boba and Őriszentpéter (border) (ERTMS Corridor D) with electronic signalling equipments and electronic barriers for the operators. With the application of the new signalling equipment system, this section of line can be controlled remotely from Zalaszentiván station.

During the spring of 2009, MÁV Co. implemented a central traffic control system in Szeged making it possible for 14 stations to be controlled remotely. The test results were positive and now all of the stations are operating in remote controlled mode. By use of the system, catenary line equipment, the sectionings and the substations can all be controlled remotely, increasing the efficiency of traffic control tasks. The stations are operating without traffic controllers.

Developments in electrification

The catenary line substation had been rebuilt during the reconstruction of Szajol station, resulting in the ready energy supply of the catenary in the region. Moreover, this substation makes it possible for more powerful traction vehicles to be operated at the same time.

At Szeged, besides the renewal of the traffic control system, MÁV Co. implemented the regional catenary energy remote control centre. To increase efficiency, the renewed Kistelek, Kiskunfélegyháza, Kiskunhalas and Szabadszállás traction substations (operating without controlling staff) have been integrated with other heavy current equipment.

Presently, the electrification of the Boba-Őriszentpéter (border) section, (part of ERTMS Corridor D) equipped with ETCS, is being carried out and will be put into operation during 2010. With the use of EU funding, a traction substation will also be put into operation in the Zalaegerszeg region. It should be emphasised that all new substations and remote control systems are of the highest quality from technical, environment protection and safeguarding aspects.

Investments in telecommunication

The full reconstruction of the telecommunication and passenger information system of Pestszentlőrinc and Szemeretelep in the suburban area of the capital city, have now been completed. During the reconstruction of the Ukk-Őriszentpéter (border) line section, in the framework of the reconstruction of Ukk-Andráshida section, a passenger information system with voice media has been introduced in the stations.

At the beginning of 2009 the telecommunication system of the new traffic control and traffic management centre at Szeged station was created, the telecommunication connection of the remote controlled stations was modified and the passenger information equipment was modified to allow remote control operation. At the Kelenföld station in Budapest, the passenger information system is currently being rebuilt in parallel with the creation of the new subway station.

Track maintenance and grinding

On the basis of international experience and on the recommendations of the UIC, MÁV Co. worked out and published the regulation no. 100 560/1995 titled as ‘Rail treatment’ in 1995. This regulation contains technical conditions regarding the state of the running and guiding surface of the rails and information regarding the treatment possibilities of rail heads. The regulation defines the limit when it is necessary to intervene (difference between the ideal state of the rail surface and the irregularity) and when the ideal running and guiding surface can economically be renewed.

In other regulations we define the requirements to be fulfilled in the case of the running and guiding surfaces of the rails and define what speed limitations are to be introduced in case of the different degrees of deformations.

The fulfillment of the requirements and the control of the irregularities of rail heads were performed by portable measurement equipment during the introductory phase of the regulation. A measuring train for diagnostics of the track has recently been furnished with modern measuring equipment that is capable of continuously inspecting the lateral and longitudinal profile of the rail simultaneously, of saving and archiving the data and comparing these data with the original state of the rail. Moreover, the equipment is capable of comparing the data of measurements taken at regular intervals that can assist experts to choose the correct time of intervention and renewal.

However, despite modern requirements and continuous measurements, MÁV Co. does not posses the equipment for rail grinding and other purposes necessary for the maintenance of the rails. Previously, our company had the well-known companies (SPENO, LORAM, SCHWERBAU) grind the rails of some line sections (within our financial limits) in order that the requirements of 160km/h transport speed could be accomplished. However, during the past years MÁV Co. has limited opportunities.

MÁV-THERMIT Co. purchased a railway vehicle adapted to run on rails and also be transferred onto the road, that can be used quickly and in an expert-like manner for locally arising grinding works. With this equipment the level crossing environment, the surface of corrugated rails of tracks near platforms, the surface of corrugated rails at pedestrian crossing areas and at other small line sections can be economically renewed and prevented from further decay of railway track structure. We are regularly leasing this equipment for rehabilitation works.

It is stated in our requirement, and it is also known from the experience of the developed railway undertakings, that after the installation of new rails it is necessary to grind them almost immediately to remove the metallurgical roughness and surface irregularities. Ten years ago we could perform such activity with great success. As a result of the ROLA vehicles running on our lines, we are now faced with surface irregularity called Head Checking phenomenon, which is resulting from the huge contact stress caused by the small diameter rail wheels with large wheel loads. This phenomenon can be abolished only by one method; by the grinding of rails in time. However MÁV Co. does not currently have the opportunity to do so due to economic reasons.

Our developments in the future

Using the subsidies of the National Development Plan II and the Operational Programme of Transport, MÁV Co. intends to invest 545 billion HUF (approximately €2.04 billion) into the development of the European corridors and expansion of the GSM-R system until 2013 (see Table 2).

Table 2: Priority projects by EU support

Table 2: Priority projects by EU support

With further aid from the EU, a development worth 21 billion HUF has been started in the Záhony region at the Eastern border of the EU, at the Ukrainian border crossing. This development involves a significant length of normal and broad gauge track renewal. A further 136 billion HUF is planned to be used for the renewal of the Budapest suburban railway transportation, in particular for the complete renewal of two major stations and their areas.

One of the most important tasks is the republication of GSM-R tender after it was closed without any results. With this new system we aim to dramatically renew the whole telecommunication system of the network. We are also continuing the infrastructure and catenary rehabilitation works in Budapest-Kelenföld-Székesfehérvár. A reconstruction and electrification of the railway line between Székesfehérávr-Börgönd-Pusztaszabolcs will also be carried out.

At the beginning of 2010, we are planning to publish a tender for the change of interlocking at Budapest-Székesfehérvár railway line section.

With the involvement of entrepreneurs, work to renew the power supply for the telecommunication and signalling equipment of 25 stations has been started. With an investment of 1.3 billion HUF, all the old power supplies can be changed. This will contribute to the higher efficiency of the signalling equipment. The change of power supplies will take place in January 2010 for half of the mentioned stations, while the rest will take place in May and November 2010.

At the same time, preparations for numerous huge projects are being finalised, so we hope that by the end of the 2007-2013 budgetary period, we can start development within the next budgetary period with full steam. It is planned that full technical rehabilitation of tracks and stations will be carried out on the corridors as well as the implementation of traffic control systems and ETCS Level 2.

Besides these investment plans, research and development is being carried out in numerous fields. For example, we would like to modernise the track inspection system. In the framework of this, manual inspection on foot will be changed gradually with the use of future video inspection equipment. With the application of this equipment we will be able to perform such activity objectively and contribute to the traffic safety of the tracks.

According to preliminary calculations, three equipment and three motor units will be needed in order to perform the required volume of inspections on the concerned lines. In the near future, we would like to see a development in the field of vehicle diagnostics as well. Our development will touch upon the equipment for dynamic scale, flat wheel detectors, hot-box detectors, detectors of outside diameter of flange and wheel surface while moving, for loading gauge detectors and pantograph detectors. In order to reach our goal, we have begun to list and check all vehicle diagnostics equipment implemented at the side of the tracks. Moreover, we have begun to define the future needs, optional types and amount of equipment. The optional place of implementation will also be defined. The requested specification of the equipment to be implemented in the future and the implementation concept for the whole network of MÁV Co. is also being prepared.

In light of the economic environment, the so called BPR project which is currently under preparation is of great importance for MÁV Co. as a potential means of increasing efficiency. This is the reason our company takes advantage of all chances in the field of maintenance and operation.

High priority projects

ETCS project

In compliance with the interoperability requirements of the EU, MÁV Co. shall augment the existing lines with the ETCS along the railway corridors. The train control system will allow interoperable traction vehicles operated by any railway company on the MÁV network to safety interpret signalling equipment and speed limits in a uniform manner and hence ensure safe rail traffic.

With the early implementation of ETCS in our country, we have great experience that we wish to exploit during the implementation of new equipment. Between 2004 and 2006, ETCS Level 1 was implemented on the 200km Budapest-Hegyeshalom (border) railway line and was put into final operation between 2007 and 2008. We have great experience in ETCS thanks to the active use of the line by the Hungarian and Austrian operators.

As the system was new, some failures occurred. During the autumns of 2008 and 2009, we carried out a total system inspection, temporarily turning off the trackside subsystem in order that operators could better perform their duties on a fully operating system. Among the characteristic failures was the inactivity of the balises, meaning that the expected reaction does not occur when energy is broadcast. As a result of this, we had to change 65 switchable and fixed balises. We concluded that the method of programming the balises is very important since the balises with connectors provide a regular connector failure that negatively affects the availability of the system element. Consequently, we decided to give preference to balises by air-gap interfaces for programming.

We are planning to implement supplemental diagnostic modules on both of our lines equipped with ETCS due to the LEU type failures occurring randomly.

In case of system maintenance targeting perfect operation, it must be emphasised that track side workers should learn the system to avoid operating problems occurring during track reballasting procedures and other cases. From the second half of 2009, a mobile team has been working on the Budapest-Hegyeshalom line to repair ETCS failures.

GSM-R project

MÁV Co. and GYSEV Co. are planning to introduce the GSM-R system over a railway line in excess of 3,400km. The system will facilitate safe railway telecommunications that are fully compliant with interoperability requirements using a modern, digital radio system. In addition to providing secure speech and data transmission service, the system, whose installation is planned for the period 2010-2013, will also support ETCS Level 2 on the main Corridors in Hungary.

The negotiating phase of the public procurement procedure was closed in 2009, however a valid offer was not submitted and the procurement procedure closed without result. At present, MÁV Co. is willing to publish a new call for tender, the fact of which is supported by the already prepared documents.

The implementation of the GSM R network involves the establishment of subsystems, necessary power supply, optical transmission techniques as stated in the specifications and the process of pulling down the analogue systems. These are supplemented with the architectural and HVAC works to be done. A modern dispatcher system will be created, and the hardware and software components of electronic settlement system, the invoicing and user-friendly system will be established as a result of the project. The training in connection with this and a long-term provision of components for maintainability is also very important.

The delay of the GSM-R tender does not jeopardise the publication of tenders for ETCS Level 2 implementation.

RTIS project

The establishment of a comprehensive IT system that supports traffic control for all trains, and which is compliant with EU legislation governing interoperability while also being suitable for serving the multi-player railway traffic market, is one of the main objectives of the Infrastructure Business Unit. The Railway Traffic Information System (RTIS) being introduced between 2007 and 2010 will control rail traffic in compliance with European requirements and will render significant assistance to ensure that operative work is conducted in a proactive manner.

The planned system will serve the following infrastructure strategic tasks:

  • Cooperation with operators in the field of traffic operation and management will be strengthened according to the Commission Decision of 2006/920/EC concerning technical specifications of interoperability relating to subsystems of the Trans-European conventional rail system
  • The Commission regulation No. 62/2006 concerning the technical specification for interoperability relating to the telematic applications for freight subsystem requires that railway undertakings shall obtain real-time information on the position of their trains and traffic forecast for the effective management of their business
  • On the basis of Hungarian law, from December 2010 MÁV Co. will provide qualitative data about the movement and delays of trains and the reasons for these delays
  • The Infrastructure Business Unit of MÁV Co. will be able to effectively cooperate with the railway undertakings dealing with passenger transportation, meaning that those railway undertakings which are running on the network of MÁV Co. will be able to fulfil the obligatory requirements of the provision of passenger information set in the public service contract

Besides the performance of infrastructure strategic tasks, the application will provide the following services:

  • A well arranged graphic software tool system for the planning and managing of operative train traffic
  • The treatment of messages about the planned and unplanned event
  • The treatment and processing of information concerning the restrictions of train traffic
  • Processing and visualisation of real-time and objective traffic information received from the signalling and on-board equipment (it should be noted that despite the numerous aged signalling equipment at stations and at the lines, most of the locomotives and motor coaches are furnished with on-board GPS equipment). This makes it possible to apply traffic data as data source in the information system, which can be used for the planning of traffic
  • In cooperation with EUROPTIRAILS train traffic information could be gained from networks not belonging to MÁV Co.
  • Electronic movement authority request and provision and the abolishment of some paper-based traffic registers
  • Total modernisation of the messaging system

In order to reach the aforementioned goals, we published an open public procurement tender in 2009, in response to which many European companies submitted an offer. After the prequalification and negotiation phases, the winner will be decided at the beginning of 2010.

The performance of the 18 month long development will be aided with two subprojects. The purpose of the data network subproject is to extend the already existing data network of the company, while the purpose of the signalling equipment subproject is to deliver the information of modern signalling equipment to the RTIS central electronic system according to the interface requirements used at MÁV Co. By these two subprojects, MÁV Co. will be able to objectively define current train positions and follow the movements of trains.

PASS2 project

IT support for business processes will be provided through the RTIS and the Rail Track Usage Billing and Statistical System (PASS2). With an annual value of HUF 100 billion, the PASS2 development will support the itemised settlement of several million traffic events that take place between the railway undertakings and MÁV Co. The main objective of the system is to allow MÁV Co. to compile accurate and authentic billing details about the charges for rail track services for all categories of trains that use such services under the network access contracts, as published in the Network Business Regulations.

Figure 1: MÁV Group main indicators

Figure 1: MÁV Group main indicators

Closing remarks

All in all, high-quality development works are taking place at MÁV Group and MÁV Co.

As a closing remark I would like to summarise the most important tasks of the Infrastructure Business unit of MÁV Co. in 2010 as the following:

  • Conclusion of the contract for infrastructure maintenance and operation in order to stabilise finances
  • Qualitative improvement of services and continuation of developments in the field of safety and security
  • Preparation for becoming an independent company
  • Examination and optimalisation of the activities of Infrastructure Business Unit and the portfolio
  • Starting projects to increase efficiency
  • Preparation for tasks arising from the establishment of regional networks
László Mosóczi

László Mosóczi

About the author

Dr. László Mosóczi started his career with MÁV in 1987 in the Department of Data Processing and Computing. From 1992-2003, he held a position at the headquarters in the Directorate of Telecommunication, Electrification and Signalling in the Signalling Department. In 2003, he became the Head of the department, and since July 2004, he has been Head of the Infrastructure Business Unit. Since 2006, Dr. Mosóczi has been the Chief Operational Officer and Deputy General Manager of MÁV, while also having spent a year at the independent MÁV-START Passenger Transportation Co. as Chairman of the Board and CEO from 2007-2008. Now, as COO, he also operates as the leader of the Infrastructure Business Unit.