October 03, 2017

EU audit exposes reluctance to invest in ERTMS

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THE European Commission’s objective of completing the rollout of ERTMS across its nine Core Network Corridors (CNCs) by 2030 could be in jeopardy because of the patchy nature of deployment and the reluctance of infrastructure managers and operators to invest in the technology, according to a report published on October 3 by the European Court of Auditors.

After visiting Denmark, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Poland to assess the planning, deployment and management of ERTMS implementation, the auditors concluded that deployment of the system in the EU “is at a low level and represents a patchwork, despite the fact that the ERTMS concept and vision to enhance interoperability is not generally questioned by the rail sector.”

Despite the strategic political decision to deploy a single signalling system across the whole of the EU, there was no overall cost estimate to establish the necessary funding and its sources. There is no legislative requirement for member states to decommission legacy national systems and the audit found that legal obligations are not always aligned with the priorities and deadlines of EU transport policy.

Infrastructure managers and operators have been reluctant to invest in ERTMS equipment because of the expense and the lack of an individual business case. Around €1.2bn was allocated in the EU budget between 2007 and 2013 to support member states’ investment in ERTMS, but this only represents a fraction of the cost of deployment.

The report argues that the new European Deployment plan does not fully address many of the challenges facing the successful implementation of ERTMS. High up-front investment costs and lack of immediate benefits for those bearing the financial impact of deployment, problems with compatibility between different versions, and the need to satisfy diverse requirements of operators and infrastructure managers have resulted in a “patchwork” of low-level deployment.

“This puts not only the achievement of the deployment targets set for 2030 and investments made so far at risk, but also the realisation of a single railway area as one of the Commission’s major policy objectives,” the auditor says. “It may also adversely affect the competitiveness of rail transport as compared with road haulage.”

Recommendations

To address the weaknesses in deployment, the report makes eight recommendations:

• the EC and the member states should analyse the total cost of deployment by the end of 2018, taking into account both the core network and the comprehensive network, in order to introduce a single signalling system throughout the EU
• the EC should seek agreement with member states by the end of 2018 on realistic, coordinated and legally-binding targets for the phasing out of national signalling systems
• the EC and the member states should work with rail stakeholders and the ERTMS suppliers to examine diverse financial mechanisms that could support individual business cases for ERTMS deployment, reducing reliance on the EU budget
• the EC should work with the EU Agency for Railways and ERTMS suppliers to ensure ERTMS specifications remain stable, incompatibilities between existing versions of trackside systems are eliminated, and future compatibility is achieved on all ERTMS-equipped routes
• the EC should assess by mid-2018 whether the EU Agency for Railways has the necessary resources to act as an efficient and effective system authority and fulfil its enhanced role in the deployment of ERTMS as specified in the Fourth Railway Package
• member states should align their national deployment plans and the EC should monitor and enforce implementation of the new European Deployment plan, with milestones to allow proper monitoring of member states’ progress with ERTMS deployment
• the EC should adopt Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funding procedures from 2020 onwards to better reflect the lifecycle of ERTMS deployments and maximise the use of EU funding available for the system, and
• EU funding should target cross-border or core network deployments for trackside equipment, while funding for onboard equipment should be directed at vehicles used primarily for international operations.

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