Keeping up-to-date with ETCS implementation plans in Spain

Posted: 28 May 2008 | | No comments yet

This article presents the main aspects concerning the experience that the development of the ERTMS system in Spain has produced, and the established criteria for the migration to this new system.

This article presents the main aspects concerning the experience that the development of the ERTMS system in Spain has produced, and the established criteria for the migration to this new system.

This article aims to present the main aspects concerning the experience that the development of the ERTMS system in Spain has produced. It will also describe the established criteria for the migration to this new system.

The subjects that are going to be presented are as follows:

  • Implementation in the infrastructure
  • Implementation in the rolling stock
  • ERTMS migration strategy
  • GSM-R implementation
  • STM status and perspective
  • Compatibility between a SRS 2.3.0 train and SRS 2.2.2 Spanish trackside
  • Conclusions

Current ERTMS implementation in the infrastructure

High-Speed Network

The actual development of the ETCS system involves the trackside of the high-speed lines and commuter lines.
The line between Madrid and Barcelona is 650km and has been built by the company Ansaldo. Thales was used for the line from Madrid to Lleida (460km) and also the line from Lleida to Barcelona (190km). The installation of the system is completed and in operation in Level 1 at 300km/h.

The line between Zaragoza and Huesca incorporates Alstom technology and is also finished and in the reliability testing phase before being entered into service.

The line Madrid-Segovia-Valladolid (part of the future high-speed line from Madrid to northern Spain) is built with Thales and is in operation with Level 1 at 300km/h. The same characteristics apply to the line between Cordoba and Malaga, built by Dimetronic (Invensys).

Level 2 is available in all the lines as a basic/main system and level 1 as a backup – except on the line between Zaragoza and Huesca where only Level 1 is installed. Currently, trains are working only with Level 1 because Level 2 is still in the verification and validation process. Delays have occurred due to the incorporation into the RBCs of the Change Request 458.

Conventional Network

In the conventional network, the line between Albacete and La Encina (93km long), which forms part of the line between Madrid and Valencia, is currently undergoing tests, and has been the Pilot line developed in Spain within the TEN projects. This line has served to validate the functionality of the system.

The installation of the system in Madrid´s suburban railway network has already started by Thales and Invensys (Dimetronic). The system in these lines is based on Level 1 being also complemented with Level 2 in the tunnels which connect the two most important railway stations in Madrid (Atocha and Chamartín). This is a really important project since it is the first step towards the migration process of the ETCS system into the conventional network.

To sum up, nowadays the situation of ETCS´s system development in the Spanish infrastructure, is that more than 1300km of double track lines have been totally constructed or are being constructed, by all UNISIG companies except Siemens.

Current ERTMS implementation on the rolling stock

Currently, 167 trains are in operation with ETCS on-board. The BT Talgo Lab Trains and the High-Speed A-330 Séneca Lab Train are owned by ADIF to perform tests on the infrastructure.

The other trains are owned by Renfe and are used in commercial operation. The S-102, S-103 and S-104 series are high-speed trains in service on the high-speed network. The S-120 series is a variable-gauge train that are able to run both on the high-speed and in the conventional network.

A new contract for 217 vehicles has been placed with different suppliers to equip commuter trains for the Madrid area.

Migration strategy

The criteria that will be followed in the process of migration towards the ETCS system in Spain is different from the high-speed network for the conventional network.

In high-speed lines, the main objectives to pursue, besides safety, are interoperability and an appropriated level of capacity. For this reason, the foreseen future is the implantation of Level 2 as the main system in all the high-speed lines constructed at present or near future and Level 1 as a backup. In future projects, and once high level of reliability has been achieved, the exclusive implantation of Level 2 will be studied.

In conventional lines, the main objective is to increase safety and to increase capacity in the lines with high traffic density; mainly the lines in the suburban railway network. This has to be achieved at the minimum cost possible. Currently, a detailed analysis for this migration process is ongoing, but taking into account the existing infrastructures and signaling, a starting point Level 1 will be deployed on the network and Level 2 will be considered for high density lines. The economic impact of the complete deployment will be evaluated in each case, including interlocking renewal, wiring, etc…, added to the ETCS costs.
Within the migration process, the freight corridors proposed by the European Commission are a very important way of accelerating this process that will serve to motivate the implantation of the implementation of the ETCS system. Spain participates in the corridor D which connects the Valencia-Barcelona-Lyon-Torino-Ljubljana project, where three other countries collaborate; France, Italy and Slovenia. This corridor links the ports from Valencia, Tarragona and Barcelona (which are the most important ones in Spain) to other corridors that run within France and Italy.

GSM-R deployment

GSM-R is an essential element of this plan in order to achieve the necessary levels of safety, interoperability, capacity and quality of service. The implementation criteria of the GSM-R system is delimited by the economical resources and the productive capacity of the sector.

According this criteria, all new high-speed lines and trains will be installed with the GSM-R system.

On the conventional network, the migration process towards the GSM-R system will prioritise the commuter’s lines and freight corridors.

STM development

Within the migration process, which was described above, it is necessary to have at disposal the corresponding STM for the ATP national systems. This is due to the fact that these trains may circulate in lines which are or are not equipped with the ETCS system. Moreover, this will mean that profits will be made in the near future with the on-board ERTMS equipment installed in the trains.

The ASFA STM, the Ebicab STM and LZB STM have their development phase completed and are being installed on the rolling stock. The STM-LZB is in operation on the S-103 trains running on the Madrid to Sevilla line.

Compatibility between a SRS 2.3.0 train and the SRS 2.2.2 Spanish infrastructure

The lines and on-board equipment currently in commercial service in Spain are equipped with the version 2.2.2. To achieve the maximum compatibility with new version 2.3.0, the use of functions on the infrastructure that are not backwards compatible and not essential for the operation have been avoided. Also, specific engineering rules (2.3.0 compatible) have been applied for the implementation of some functions. Nevertheless, in the version 2.3.0, there are certain change requests that are incompatible with the infrastructure currently installed, that can be classified in two categories:

  • Change request that resolves problems identified during tests and are needed for the operation of the lines: CR 458, 257
  • Change request that is not needed for the operation of lines currently installed: CR 20, 792

These modifications have a great economic impact for their implementation on the infrastructure.
For the rolling stock, the impact is even higher, because the great majority of the change request affects the on-board equipment.


Spain has been a pioneer country in the development and deployment of the ETCS system, as shown by the amount of kilometers and train units installed and in operation, being the biggest installations in Europe. Spain is fully committed to the deployment of the ETCS system, having clear future plans for the deployment and migration toward this system.

Out of the Spanish experience, the most negative factor is the continuous revision of the version of the specifications, leading to important actuations, involving economic investments and disturbance in the commercial operation of installations that are already in commercial service.

Once version 2.3.0d has been established as the interoperability reference for the freight corridors, all future modifications to the specifications will be compatible with this version.