Research initiatives aiming at the development of a harmonised European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) date back to the early 1990s, when work was launched to define the architecture of a generic train control and command system. Now that the main components of the European Train Control System (ETCS) have been specified, the focus has shifted to proving the feasibility of these new technologies on pilot railway links.
The purpose of ETCS-VB was to make a pilot installation of the European Train Control System (ERTMS/ETCS) on the Vienna-Budapest line.
This first complete installation aimed to demonstrate both the performance of the new ETCS and its interoperability with the existing Austrian and Hungarian national automatic train protection (ATP) systems. The tests were pivotal to the process of consolidating the ERTMS/ETCS specifications, allowing them to reach their present status of mandatory European specifications.
The test programme allowed a full validation for the following operating modes/functions:
- full ERTMS level 1, complying with the European Functional System Specification;
- interoperability tests with the existing Austrian and Hungarian ATP systems, via the utilisation of Specific Transmission Modules;
- evaluation of an infill function through the use of Eurobalises;
- proof of concept of a standardised Man Machine Interface (MMI) for the drivers.
The following are the main tasks performed during the ETCS-VB project:
- the installation of an ETCS track-side system between Parndorf and the Austrian-Hungarian border on the ÖBB railway line (15 km), based on a decentralised architecture with direct connection to on-site signals;
- the installation of an ETCS track-side system between the border and Hegyesholm on the MÁV railway line (30 km), based on the existing centralised ATP track circuit system;
- the fitting of two locomotives - one from ÖBB and one from MÁV - with the on-board ETCS components required for the tests;
- preparatory tests to validate the installations and to evaluate a set of operational scenarios that were to serve as the core set of operational tests for the pilot test trials;
- the successful performance of tests with the complete ERTMS/ETCS level 1 installation in both Austria and Hungary;
- the partial demonstration of the interoperability of on-board systems from several major manufacturers by means of cross border tests using the ÖBB locomotive.
The first pilot application of a complete ERTMS/ETCS system has proven the operational, interoperability and safety benefits of the concept. Larger scale demonstrations over a longer period were definitely encouraged by results of the ETCS-VB project. This supported the continuation of the development programme of ERTMS/ETCS as well as its consolidation as the mandatory European signalling standard for high-speed traffic applications.