Oh dear, readers will say, not another ERTMS article! Yes, but this is inevitable as the UK gets ever nearer to introducing a main line deployment of the technology. Valuable lessons were learned from the Cambrian line early deployment project but that was limited in scope and many other factors need to be considered before the nation can be confident the system will deliver the predicted benefits and reliability.

A recent conference in London organised by Waterfront managed to attract speakers from all elements of the spectrum, ranging from the advocates who believe that ERTMS will solve all capacity problems, through those that recognise the advantages but see the implementation as difficult, to a few prophets of doom who predict it will be a costly failure.

The up-beat message

Andrew Simmonds, the chief rail systems engineer for Network Rail’s Digital Railway, pronounced ERTMS (the European Rail Traffic Management System) to be a major driver for economic growth. Passenger number forecasts are rising by 3% per annum, meaning that the current 1.6 billion journeys per year will have risen to three billion by 2035. Some examples of the predicted increase per route are WCML 201%, Thameslink 171%, GW Suburban 108%, South West Trains to Woking 154%, Southern Suburban to Caterham 149%. Handling this capacity is not just aligned to signalling but will need to embrace customer interfaces, ticketing, journey planning, infrastructure operations and the whole operational framework.

ERTMS (especially the ETCS – European Train Control System – element) is very much part of this and should yield around a 40% increase in capacity. Spin-offs include a 10% reduction in delay minutes through better reliability, an 80% reduction in SPADs (signals passed at danger), a 50% reduction in the need for lineside work, energy savings from better regulation of trains and improved utilisation of maximum line speed. Needing to go hand in hand with Traffic Management Systems (TMS), ETCS will be introduced on a route-by-route basis with the initial plan covering the period 2019 to 2029, structured around three main phases.

Phase 1 – development of initial routes; primarily Thameslink plus TMS at Cardiff and Romford and connected driver advisory systems (C-DAS);

Phase 2 – provision of electronic compatible interlockings, removal of lineside signals, a robust telecom layer in the ROCs (rail operating centres) and provision of ETCS infrastructure and cab fitments;

Phase 3 – more of the same but progressing to 100% roll out and start of classic train detection removal.

All very impressive but will it go to plan and will the necessary finance be available in CP6/7 and beyond?

More detail emerged on the ECML rollout, itself covered in a Rail Engineer March 2015 article (issue 125). Whilst that primarily looked at the technical implications, Paul Boyle from Virgin East Coast explained how preparations are underway for ETCS.

Visits to Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Portugal have highlighted 13 elements of operation ranging from train fitment and GSM-R provision through to TMS, track worker safety and station operation. The ECML will be the first main line to totally migrate to ERTMS, Great Western being an overlay project. Four constituent activities have to be tackled – operations, safety, fleet and control.

Driver training has already started using simulators with the DMI (driver-machine interface) layout now available on smartphone or tablet screens. A high percentage of Virgin East Coast staff will engage with ETCS in some way and an ERTMS Awareness Day has recently been held at Kings Cross for all operations staff.

Train fitting will require contracts to be let, trains to be released from service and a full change management plan put in place. The programme to fit the Class 43 HST power cars, the Class 91 electric locos and the Class 82 DVTs will run up to 2020 in readiness for the time when lineside signals are removed.

All very impressive but will it go to plan and will the necessary finance be available in CP6/7 and beyond?

More detail emerged on the ECML rollout, itself covered in a Rail Engineer March 2015 article (issue 125). Whilst that primarily looked at the technical implications, Paul Boyle from Virgin East Coast explained how preparations are underway for ETCS.

Visits to Austria, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Portugal have highlighted 13 elements of operation ranging from train fitment and GSM-R provision through to TMS, track worker safety and station operation. The ECML will be the first main line to totally migrate to ERTMS, Great Western being an overlay project. Four constituent activities have to be tackled – operations, safety, fleet and control.

Driver training has already started using simulators with the DMI (driver-machine interface) layout now available on smartphone or tablet screens. A high percentage of Virgin East Coast staff will engage with ETCS in some way and an ERTMS Awareness Day has recently been held at Kings Cross for all operations staff.

Train fitting will require contracts to be let, trains to be released from service and a full change management plan put in place. The programme to fit the Class 43 HST power cars, the Class 91 electric locos and the Class 82 DVTs will run up to 2020 in readiness for the time when lineside signals are removed.

Learning from the Cambrian

The Cambrian project, introduced into service initially from Harlech to Pwllheli in February 2010 and on the whole line from Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth / Harlech in March 2011, was reported on at the time in Rail Engineer. It was not an easy introduction and the train service suffered in the early days. Even now, the ETCS system is not as flexible as the RETB technology that preceded it. Matthew Phillips from Interfleet told of the lessons learned and how these will be used for future deployments:

»  The project had been engineering rather than operations led;

»  Operational changes were underestimated with new rules not reflecting the real world;

»  The operational benefits were not optimised;

»  Insufficient focus was given to simulation while sub-system integration proved very complex;

»  Approvals for on-board equipment need to be phased so as to keep trains in service;

»  ETCS reliability (especially on-board equipment) has been worse than expected;

»  Whole-life support was not part of the contract.

The cost of retrofitting the Class 158 DMUs (by Interfleet) and the Class 97 (ex-37) locomotives (by Transys) proved very expensive in terms of design and approval costs, especially as the trains had minor variations between units. It took 10 days out of service to fit a Class 158.

The freight dimension

Whilst much of the ERTMS roll out is focused on the passenger railway, the impact on the seven freight operating companies (FOCs) is of vital importance. Simon Gledhill from DB Schenker quoted the statistics: 950 locos of 19 classes, 20,000 wagons and around 5,000 staff. It is a growing business, with £2 billion invested since privatisation, but is very competitive, performance sensitive and has changing market dynamics. The annual turnover is £30 billion with 1 in 4 containers carried by rail plus 50% of the fuel used for electricity generation. Thus any technological change that even minutely disrupts this flow is regarded with suspicion.

ERTMS awareness exists but, for freight, it cannot be linked to any one route. It must take account of the variation in the length, consist and weight of trains, plus shunting and banking activities, and the whole freight operation needing to be based at multiple locations. Locomotive fitting will be crucial and should follow the pattern of ‘first in class’ (FIC) fleet fitment, training and driver familiarisation. Braking data variability is vital and needs a major refinement over the individual expertise used at present.

An implementation programme running from 2015 to 2021 is being developed with operating rules revised by 2016 and fitment beginning in 2017. ERTMS teams within the companies are being assembled. The transition from lineside signals to in-cab data will be difficult, but the FOCs and Network Rail are working well together, recognising that freight has to be part of the National Operations Strategy (NOS).

Passenger train fitment

This is probably the biggest challenge in the ERTMS introduction. Andy Norris from CPC Project Services and the project director for the ETCS National Joint ROSCO Project (rolling stock company) explained the main elements in determining how fleets are equipped. The national deployment map is the starting point but alongside this are franchise considerations and whether these are existing, direct awards or in the course of development. Any delay to franchise letting will have ETCS implications.

There are no spare trains in the UK so fleet fitment will take many years. Procurement of equipment is needed now for fleet fitting over five to six years. Test facilities will be available by April 2016 at Old Dalby for electric trains and Tuxford for diesel locomotives. Network Rail is funding the FIC design and installation with fleet fitment funded primarily via franchise arrangements but with Network Rail backup. Open access operators have to organise their own funding in conjunction with Network Rail.

The progression is to obtain around 30 kits for FIC design and approval, and 1,465 kits for fleet fitment. A maximum of 11 FICs can be handled at any one time, recognising that some classes are essentially similar (such as 158/9, 375/6/7/8, 175/180), and a programme is in place for every class of passenger train. It will be a TOC decision as to whether elderly trains such as Pacers and 313s are fitted.

The TOC requirement is to have no loss of seats, cycle or storage space and thus the kit has to be distributed in roof spaces, under seats or underfloor, which will add cost. The Hitachi product (issue 125, March 2015) is already designed this way. The work will be let competitively and contracts must include aftercare support.

Additional challenges include:

» Getting ETCS software to baseline 3 – Europe is dragging its heels on this;

» Funding certainty and timing;

» Cyber security protection;

» Engaging the supply chain with the urgent need to place orders;

» Skilled resource shortage for both UK and European workload;

» Reliability of the installed kit; » Technical options for DMI.

The Department for Transport will need to enhance clauses in franchises for ETCS commitment. There are many stakeholders including the Government, TfL and Transport Scotland but these and the ROSCOs are working well together currently.

The ORR perception

With ERTMS involving many parties, the ORR is only too aware of its complexity, so says Anna O’Connor, head of projects. Industry does not have an unequivocal shared vision and, even if it did, implementing ETCS technology would still be a difficult task. There is much uncertainty on the time frame and lots of ambiguity, making the project akin to a patchwork quilt. The main risk seems to be with the multitude of interfaces raising big questions on the ability of Network Rail and its suppliers to deliver the programme, particularly when engineering resources are in short supply.

Safety issues have to be all-important and safety legislation is also complex involving ROGTS, Safety at Work, CDM, Workplace Regulations, EMC, Interoperability and others. The detail within these is important but should not be used as an excuse for delay.

In-cab computer-based signalling is a major change and requires four basic steps to be understood:

»  Need to assess the risk of the change with associated design optioneering;

»  How far can the risks be eliminated and useof ALARP;

»  Consideration of the specific statutoryrequirements within the work packages;

»  Identify appropriate opportunities -ERTMS should not be a digital like-for-like replacement and the integration of level crossing operation and improved worker protection should be part of the package.

Other opportunities should embrace the accuracy of braking curves, maybe with real time monitoring of braking performance. A list of possible applications should be prepared.

Lessons from Europe

Anyone who thinks that European railways have had an easy ride with ERTMS should think again, according to Kimmo Oostermeijer from Leigh Fisher. Despite significant funding, the deployment is behind schedule, project management has been un-coordinated and appropriate measures have not been taken to prevent delay.

One key lesson is that ERTMS is more about organisation and economy rather than technical. The dictate on TEN-T (trans-European transport network) corridors demands safety, system performance and interoperability to yield the benefits for passenger and freight customers. The risks are higher when implementing the system on an existing railway, mainly due to the retro-fitting of trains, introducing new rules and track worker safety.

The UK may benefit from not being first in the queue. The ORR noted that Sweden has benefited from creating a Systems Authority to make the necessary strategic decisions. Network Rail has considered this in the past but without making any progress. Maybe it should be resurrected, as the lack of a ‘Directing Mind’ appears to be a significant gap in its organisational structure.

Other factors

With the significant number of parties involved, the need for robust contractual frameworks is essential and associated legal safeguards must be in place. Tammy Samuel from Stephenson Harwood listed some of the necessary measures that must be considered and decided:

» Purchase of equipment; what if it is late and/ or doesn’t perform?

» Liabilities imposed by end customers;

» Funding of downtime of trains through failures and proving of cause, interface between track and train and associated delay attribution;

» Who is the customer and the supplier – ROSCO, TOC/FOC, Network Rail?

» Who is responsible for approvals and commissioning?

» How will major system upgrades be managed?

» Intellectual Property and ownership plus issue of licence and the extent of this.

Cyber security is another issue and an assessment should be made of the places where this can occur. Julian Gill from Thales stated that nine possible threats were identified, the main ones being end-to-end communications, train-to-balise interactions, denial/traceability of keys, secure usage of components and the common numbering system within GSM-R. The classic fail-safe criteria of ‘if in doubt, stop the train’ will not necessarily be a workable solution. Seven layers of defence were identified ranging from data configuration through to policies and procedures.

Overall, the conference gave a fascinating, if not slightly worrying, exposure to the main line introduction of ERTMS/ETCS. If nothing else, it achieved a wider awareness of what might go wrong. Many eyes will be watching the first deployments, both for infrastructure provision and train fitment, and the readiness by which the almost inevitable unforeseen situations will be identified and resolved.