The development of ERTMS in the Czech Republic

Posted: 21 May 2014 | | No comments yet

SŽDC is a state-organisation tasked with the role of railway infrastructure manager for the Czech Republic. The country’s railway network has approximately 9,459km of lines which consist of 1,950km of double-and multi-tracks and 7,509km of single track lines operating with standard gauge. Only 23km of single-track lines are narrow-gauged. Approximately 3,216km of lines are electrified, with about 56% having a DC 3 kV system and 44% with an AC 25 kV/50 Hz system, explains Petr Varadinov, Signalling Systems and ERTMS Applications Specialist Engineer at SŽDC.

Control and safety sub-system

Important and essential railway lines have been gradually modernised since the early 1990s. Comprehensive track work is being implemented including construction of lines, traction work, and improving safety and signalling equipment; all with the objective of increasing speeds and line capacity.

Station interlocking equipment with relay technology was initially replaced by hybrid equipment with electronic control levels, and fully-electronic equipment has now been in place for more than 10 years.

Automatic block signalling operates between line blocks, and older relay equipment is also being gradually replaced by fully-electronic systems with components centralised in neighbouring stations. Similar technology development is also being assessed for railway crossings signalling equipment.

For the detection of railway vehicles, low-frequency track circuits are being used which, at the same time, ensure information is transfered to the national automatic train protection system. Axle counters are also being used on track sections where there is no information transfer available.

The modernisation of lines gradually creates conditions for centralised traffic control. It is intended to control the main lines on the entire Czech Republic network from two control centres – one in Prague and one in Přerov. Line modernisation also creates suitable conditions to subsequently put GSM-R and ETCS into operation on the Czech rail network. This especially concerns the lines of the core network of the trans-European railway network pursuant to ‘Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council (EU) No 1315/2013’. These lines mainly include Czech parts of ETCS Corridor E and European freight corridors as set by ‘Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council No 913/2010’. This concerns freight corridors RFC 5 (Baltic Sea–Adriatic Sea), RFC 7 (East-Mediterranean into which the original Corridor E has been integrated), and RFC 9 (Czech–Slovak corridor). All lines aforementioned are extended by further important conventional linking-lines and alternate branches of corridor lines being incorporated into the comprehensive network of the TEN network on the territory of the Czech Republic These target lines for ERTMS development represent approximately 26% of the whole Czech network.

Class B Systems

The national Class B radio system Type TRS guarantees radio connection for the traffic controller or the station inspector with the train driver. The system works in a frequency band of 450 MHz and respects basic functions resulting from UIC Recommendation 751–3. This enables the required communication between TRS and similar systems from other manufacturers to be implemented. This system is installed on 4,800km of lines.

The national automatic train protection system Class B Type LS (Line System) in use in the Czech Republic uses continuous information transfer on signal aspects sent from the line to the track by means of low-frequency coded track circuits. The signal aspects are displayed to the train driver and if restricting or prohibiting signal aspects are sent, the train driver’s reactions are controlled. This system is installed on more than 1,550km of mostly double-track lines. The LS system was placed into use in the 1960s. At the end of the 1980s, it was technologically innovated with use of a new components base. Following that, and based on the information emerging on the European system, it was decided to use ETCS as a generation replacement of the LS system.

ERTMS development in the Czech Republic

On issuing the Directive No 2001/16/EC a conceptual approach to creating interoperability conditions is being developed in the Czech Republic as well as a related implementation of studies in this field, preparation and implementation of GSM-R and ETCS pilot projects, their evaluation and use of their findings for further development of these systems. In 2007, the National ERTMS Implementation Plan of the Czech Republic was created which has been notified to the European Commission and incorporated into the European Development Plan. The National ERTMS Implementation Plan was recently updated in order to respect current conditions for investment construction in the Czech Republic and changes to European law (e.g. defining RFC freight corridors).

Development of the GSM-R network

Implementation of the GSM-R pilot project on the Děčín–Prague–Kolín line – a 201km-long section of the ETCS Corridor E on the Czech territory, connected to the lines of Deutsche Bahn – was completed at the end of 2005, and testing of the pilot installation started at the beginning of 2006. A following evaluation of the pilot project provided basic technical and economic data and the experience needed for further construction of GSM-R.

In 2013, 1,132km of lines in the Czech Republic were equipped with GSM-R. Figure 2 shows the current situation and future plans of GSM-R development in the Czech Republic.

The GSM-R network has two mobile switching centres (MSC) located in Prague and Přerov which are being completed within individual constructions so that they are able to ensure operation of newly equipped lines and at the same time function as back-up to each other. The GSM-R network of SŽDC is connected to the GSM-networks of DB, ÖBB and ProRail which enables mutual roaming. Roaming is going through a test phase within one of our public operators’ networks.

In November 2013, 1,246 SIM cards were issued by SŽDC for the on-board element of GSM-R. The number of vehicles able to communicate by GSM-R is increased by foreign vehicles using roaming.

The implementation strategy presumes that GSM-R creates a necessary communication environment for ETCS Level 2 operation which is intended for use on target lines. It is therefore necessary to build quality GSM-R on these lines in advance for operating ETCS Level 2 on conventional lines based on EIRENE specification requirements.

The first stage of GSM-R implementation is focused mostly on national corridors and subsequently on further target lines. Its objective is to cover all nation-wide lines (approximately 5,400km). The priority order will be set according to operational requirements in order to establish compact areas enabling unified communication in the GSM-R network, whereas special attention will be dealt to border sections for ensuring interoperable radio communication with vehicles of foreign railways entering the territory of the Czech Republic.

GSM-R development financing in the Czech Republic is obtained via the Operational Programme ‘Transport’.

ETCS Level 2 development in the Czech Republic

In 2001, activities began in the Czech Republic leading to ETCS implementation on our railway network. The Railway Research Institute of the Joint Stock Company elaborated studies for the application of ETCS Level 2 on railway lines in the Czech Republic and specifications of the ETCS Level 2 pilot project on the Poříčany–Kolín section. The pilot project implementation started in 2005 while using financial support from the EU Cohesion Fund. To deal with ETCS implementation in the national environment, we consulted on specialised topics with the ERTMS Users Group, especially in regards to open technical specification issues.

The track side part of the pilot project – double-track line 22km-long – consists of one radio-block centre (RBC) connected to a station, line and railway crossing signalling equipment which ensures data transfer to the train by means of the GSM-R network. Other components of the track side part are non-switchable balises. The on-board part was installed on two locomotives and one EMU, one of its components is also a specific transmission module (STM) for the LS national system.

The ETCS Level 2 pilot project was implemented in a version of mandatory 2.3.0 specifications and in 2011 it was tested. The system is going to be upgraded onto the currently mandatory version 2.3.0d and incorporated into the whole line section Kolín–Prague–Děčín state border with Germany within the construction of ETCS Level 2 on this section.

Evaluating experience from the pilot project led to the creation of ‘Technical Requirements for ETCS Level 2 Implementation’ on the Czech part of Corridor E. These requirements were consulted with other Corridor E railways and the ERTMS Users Group. These requirements constituted the basis for ordering the construction of ‘ETCS – Corridor I section Kolín–Břeclav state border with Austria/Slovakia’, with its implementation starting in 2012. The project is co-financed from a special account of the European fund TEN-T for accelerating ETCS development. The original term of completion at the end of 2014 is affected by on-going modernisation of Břeclav and Ústí nad Orlicí nodes so realistically completion is now expected at the end of 2015.

The first priority of ETCS implementation is focused on National Rail Transit Corridor I, i.e. on ETCS Corridor E (Czech part of Freight Corridor No 7), its equipment is set in EDP.

Other priorities are the National Rail Transit Corridor II Břeclav–Přerov–Petrovice u Karviné state border with Poland and the connecting line Přerov–Česká Třebová. From the point-of-view of international transport, these lines create the most important parts of target lines in the Czech Republic. Due to co-financing of modernisation projects, the Czech Republic was obliged to the EU to equip the Strančice–České Budějovice section with ETCS up to the end of 2018.

ETCS Level 2 will be implemented on the main path of the Czech part of the ETCS Corridor E in the current version 2.3.0d (Baseline 2); on following ETCS projects Baseline 3 version is expected to be used. The decision on using Baseline 3 will be made in terms of product availability and its stability.

By 2030 at the latest, the operation of the national automatic train protection system LS is expected on lines equipped with ETCS for the period of migration. During this period, the current system will also enable the use of older hauling vehicles on these lines, as equipping them later with an ETCS on-board part would not be economically effective. In accordance with TSI CCS, the current LS ATP system can also be used as a back-up system in case of ETCS failure.

Financing ETCS development in the Czech Republic is expected by using resources from the Operational Programme ‘Transport’, or possibly from resources within special accounts of EU funds (Connecting Europe Facility – CEF) for supporting ETCS development and national resources (State Fund for Transport Infrastructure).

Petr Varadinov is a railway signalling systems and ERTMS applications engineer currently working at the Czech Railway Infrastructure Administration. He graduated in 1972 at the Technical College in Brno, Faculty of Electrical Engineering, and he completed his studies at the College of Transportation and Communication in Žilina, the Czech Technical College in Prague (Railway Signalling) and the Prague International Business School (Business Administration). For 30 years Petr worked for the national railway carrier Czechoslovak State Railways and later Czech Railways, joint stock company. As a railway signalling specialist he transferred in 2005 to the Railway Infrastructure Administration (SŽDC).