New ERTMS plan ‘reflects reality’, says CER’s Lochman

Libor Lochman, Executive Director of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER) says the latest timetable for delivery of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS), which is so vital to freight’s future, ‘reflects the reality of the current implementation process’. 

The recent publication of the European Commission’s (EC) ERTMS Deployment Plan brought up to date the challenges and issues faced by the various member states, and comes eight years since the first deployment plan identified six corridors that represented the highest freight volumes.

Original implementation deadlines were 2015 and 2020, which meant a significant part of those corridors should now have been finalised. But, as the EC recently conceded, ‘this is now not the case’.

Operational challenges

Speaking ahead of his appearance at next month’s RailTech Europe 2017 event in The Netherlands, Mr Lochman said the latest plan takes into account the operational challenges faced by the different member states in the established west and developing south & east regions.

And with around 50 per cent of rail freight in Europe being cross-border traffic, there is no doubt that the future success of ERTMS will be absolutely central to ensuring any future increases in both freight service frequency and volumes transported between the member states and into Asia.

“This is obviously not the first edition, and so I would say the new European Deployment Plan is certainly more reflective of the reality we face than the former ones,” said Mr Lochman. “It is more realistic, because it is more aligned with the budgets and the planning of all of the member states.

“To my mind, first there is the stability of the ERTMS specification on board, and consequently of trackside and onboard deployment that will allow an interoperability of trains on all ERTMS equipped lines with no national add-ons,” he said. “Secondly, we have the availability of the financing instrument that will allow us to accelerate the implementation and deployment of the ERTMS.

Game-changers

“Finally, there is the continuous work on what we call the game-changers, that is, the Level Three Automatic Train Operation (ATO) satellite navigation and future communications systems, that can enhance the efficiency of the traffic management,” he added.

“For me, those three elements are absolutely critical for the railways, if we wish to migrate quickly to a single European area, and have more efficient control and management of the rail traffic in Europe,” added Mr Lochman.

The CEOs of companies which comprise a consortium developing the ERTMS technical elements recently met with European Union Agency for Railways representatives to each sign a Memorandum of Understanding supporting the new version of the Deployment Plan.

The CER’s role is to represent the interests of its members on the EU policy-making scene, in particular to support an improved business and regulatory environment for European railway operators and railway infrastructure companies. As its Executive Director since 2012, Mr Lochman’s passion for seeing ERTMS realise its full potential is influenced by a strong career background in control-command and signalling systems.

More aligned

Mr Lochman said: “It really depends from which angle you wish to view it (the EDP). On the one hand it represents clear progress, but you could say it has been slow. There are still 12 or 13 years to go before we are due to see final implementation along the corridors, and achieving this goes back to my key points about compliance and financing.

“If you wish to accelerate things, we have to be sure there is stability, so there is compliance and there is finance in place. We have the potential to speed up but we all need to be working together and be supported by the policy-makers and member states.

No discrepancies

“We have perhaps been suffering from trying to do things quickly for the last 15 years,” he added.

“On the one hand you have the western and central nations, and on the other the southern and eastern countries, which are quite different,” he said. “But I would say there are no major discrepancies regarding attitudes. When infrastructure modernisation goes ahead in the east, it is heavily supported by the funds of the union, and there is no problem there. In the west however, it is more about how to accelerate things using the finances available locally, but also, in terms of traffic it is perhaps more urgent.

And while there may be ‘different motivations’ across Europe, Mr Lochman says that everyone has the same goal in mind – how to connect Europe in a way that will be interoperable.

“Everyone is working towards a common goal – and that is the point.”

And despite the substantial challenges and obstacles that remain, Mr Lochman is confident that implementation across the board will be delivered on time: “It is a general issue that the implementation plans are not sufficiently coordinated, as it applies to most of the corridors. But in spite of that, I believe that the 2030 deadline will be met.”

Mr Lochman will be giving the keynote speech on day one of RailTech Europe 2017, which takes place at Jaarbeurs Utrecht from March 28-30.

Author: Simon Weedy

Simon is a journalist for RailFreight.com - a dedicated online platform for all the news about the rail freight sector

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