March 01, 2016

Lallemand calls for temporary freeze of ETCS development

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IRJ at ERTMS World Conference. Mr Luc Lallemand, CEO of Infrabel, Belgium's infrastructure manager, called for a temporary freeze of current ETCS development so that railways can focus on deployment.


While recognising that the focus for ETCS has finally shifted to its roll-out, Lallemand says there are still a number of challenges which need to be tackled quickly and thoroughly.

 "I see two priorities that are strategically important," Lallemand told delegates in Brussels. "First, there is the need for what we could call technological stabilisation. I am not saying that ETCS and the underlying technology should no longer evolve. We have to watch carefully that the more or less mature product we have now will not be jeopardised by adding extras which do not necessarily have much to do with the essence.

"Let me make myself clear: we have a broad and detailed set of specifications that should facilitate the roll-out of ETCS both on-board and trackside. But there continue to be obstacles that are difficult to solve. Issues like compatibility or interoperability but also guaranteeing seamless cross-border operations still remain challenging.
"That is why I am saying today: let us temporarily freeze the scope of ETCS development, finish the ongoing work and focus on deployment."

Lallemand says he is convinced that this is in the interest of all stakeholders, both infrastructure managers and railway operators, but also in the interest of the supply industry, for which it is a major challenge to have the components available in time.

"I am not asking us to ignore innovation or interconnections between different technologies, nor am I asking us to turn a blind eye," Lallemand said. "But we have to be realistic, after 25 years of system development, we owe it to ourselves and society to show results. And these results will only be achieved by fully focusing on the roll-out."

Lallemand also wants to see the business case improved. "Only when there is a certain balance between the burdens and the benefits for all individual partners will there be extended support for ETCS," he said. "This is not limited to infrastructure managers or owners of rolling stock, who are the real users of ETCS, but also the suppliers must be able to build a solid business case. Burdens and benefits should be equally distributed between all parties involved."

Lallemand says a combination of measures will be needed including technological stability, tight supervision of product compatibility, and examining alternative financing sources and co-financing which he says are essential to reinforce support for ETCS. He also called for discipline to only buy off-the-shelf products and to only offer off-the-shelf products.

"Only in this way, will a business case with a substantial investment cost and a relatively short life cycle become positive," Lallemand said. "Then we'll have a triple win for the users of ERTMS, for the supply sector and, above all, for society who will get a safer transport mode."

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