European Train Control System

The “ETCS signal box” – when the train talks to the track.

The European Train Control System (ETCS) is a train control system based upon the European standard and a key component of the future unified European rail traffic management system. These new digital assistance systems maintain constant communication between vehicle and signal box and provide a technical solution that permits train density to be increased by 15–30 percent thanks to more accurate and flexible control. They also deploy new technologies, allowing a significant reduction in the costs of train control to be achieved.

Since 2002, the implementation of ETCS for new transeuropean routes has been provided for in EU law – and in Switzerland.This means that new vehicles purchased since 2014 have to be equipped with this system.This standardisation allows the signalling equipment in trains operating on transeuropean networks to be significantly simplified, as well as permitting a consistently high safety standard across all infrastructure.ETCS vehicles can thus travel on the Swiss rail network without special national safety devices.The standardised digital train control system ETCS represents the foundation for future Automatic Train Operation (ATO).

ETCS allows the speed of trains to be controlled at any time (online), which permits very precise and continuous control of train traffic flows. This new capability will be exploited to the maximum degree possible by the planned “ETCS signal box” to permit improved safety combined with greater train density. In the long term, this control process will require significantly fewer systems in the track, thereby reducing track operation costs and fault susceptibility.