smartrail 4.0: A programme from the Swiss railway industry.

Switzerland is a country of railways. To ensure that it stays this way, SBB, BLS, Schweizerische Südostbahn AG (SOB), the Rhaetian Railway (RhB) and the Union of Public Transport (UPT) are joining forces and getting the entire railway sector involved. The smartrail 4.0 programme is a collaboration that aims to get our railways ready for the digital future.

Over the next few years, a number of technical production systems that are important for train travel will be replaced due to old age. At the same time, technology is developing at an ever increasing rate, offering railway companies new opportunities to improve efficiency and punctuality.

To ensure that railway customers genuinely benefit from the age of digitalisation, we are taking a coordinated and collaborative approach to our work with smartrail 4.0. As a first step, the concept will be consolidated and fleshed out and a more detailed plan produced in the period up to 2019. The smartrail 4.0 programme is divided into five subprogrammes and covers technological development over the next 20 years. We are developing new systems for the railway sector and are working together to achieve the following objectives: Lower costs. Greater capacity. Better punctuality. Increased safety.

Vision and objective

Smartrail 4.0 aims to achieve a substantial improvement at the core of railway production. Railway production includes all resources, systems and processes for the planning and safe execution of movements on the railway infrastructure. More capacity is to be provided on the existing track infrastructure.

The concrete objectives of smartRail 4.0 include:

  1. Reducing the annual system costs in railway production by 450 MCHF (SBB only; infrastructure and vehicles)
  2. Increasing technical capacity by 15% to 30%
  3. Increasing safety, especially when shunting and on construction sites
  4. Increasing the availability of safety installations
  5. High data communications capacity for customers
Comparison Today vs. smartrail 4.0

Technical target vision

The technical target vision for smartrail 4.0 is based on existing ETCS protocols, but will reduce the current associated system complexity whilst also deploying new technologies. This will result in an overall architecture with homogeneously coordinated components that simultaneously define the scope of the programme:

  • Physical rail infrastructure: Smartrail 4.0 relies on the existing infrastructure and does not require any compulsory adjustments. By contrast, there is no need to implement it on all signals, signboards and most track-release signalling equipment (GFM). This results in a 70% reduction in external installations and corresponding cost savings in construction and maintenance.
  • COAT onboard equipment (CCS onboard application platform for trackside related functions): Smartrail 4.0 shifts functionalities from the infrastructure to the vehicle (for example localisation: from the electronic signpost to vehicle location accurate to the metre). With a fundamentally different approach similar to examples from the avionics and car manufacturing sectors, a standardised architectural concept is envisaged, with separation of hardware and software procurement.


  • Automatic Train Operation (ATO): Smartrail 4.0 will introduce ATO as part of a step-by-step development of the current driving recommendations. The current goal is automation level GoA2 (autopilot, engine driver still present and responsible for safety). Thanks to the more precise speed control, ATO results in more capacity, punctuality and the potential for energy savings.
  • Precise location: All trains can be located precisely, continuously (i.e. without fixed block intervals) and safely (including train integrity). This allows a more precise control of train movements (capacity) and the dismantling of the track-release signalling (costs).
  • Connectivity: A prerequisite for optimised control is high-performance data transmission. For this, the programme relies on the upcoming FRMCS standard to replace GSM-R.
  • ETCS signal box (ES): It is the task of the central ETCS signal box to check whether movement authorities and hazard areas on the track are created, modified or resolved. This central component integrates and simplifies existing signal boxes and RBC. The ETCS signal box is based on a geometric safety logic, which creates more capacity and simplifies complex project planning. The ETCS signal box has a pure gatekeeper function.
  • Traffic Management System (TMS): Ensures consistent planning and control of train traffic. Timetable creation and control of train traffic is largely automated. In the event of deviations, a new, optimised timetable is automatically created. This ensures that the existing railway system is used optimally in all cases.

The full impact and thus the highest benefit is achieved by implementing all components. In order to reduce complexity, detailed phasing options have already been developed for full-coverage implementation.


ab 2017


In der bis Ende 2019 laufenden Projektierungsphase werden neue Technologien und Systeme hinsichtlich ihrer Funktions- und Zulassungsfähigkeit geprüft.

ab 2020


Auf Pilotanlagen werden diese anschliessend in Feldtests erprobt…

ab 2027

Industrialisierter Rollout

…damit ab 2027 der industrielle Rollout erfolgen kann.


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The smartrail 4.0 programme is based on an overall architecture with several coordinated components. The full impact is achieved by implementing all components (including simplifying the current external installations). In order to see a benefit early on (cash flow savings) and to master the complexity of the overall system, several phasing steps can be identified:

Phase 1

Project planning 2017-2019:
Preparation of architectural, technical and functional requirements for future systems. The technical feasibility and business case are validated, and documents are made ready for decision-making and tendering.

Phase 2

Test phase 2020-2026:
Testing the concept on one or more test tracks.

Phase 3

Industrialised rollout 2027-2038

The next major update of the TSI CCS (Technical Specification for Interoperability Command & Control Signalling) is expected in 2022. It will include important features for SR40, such as using FRMCS for ETCS and voice communication, automatic train operation, virtual electronic signpost, and train integrity (for ETCS Level 3).