FRENCH infrastructure manager SNCF Network has selected Hitachi Rail as sole supplier within a framework agreement to develop and deploy a new generation of lineside Radio Block Centres (RBC), which generate and send movement authorities to trains under ERTMS.

The Hitachi RBC will form part of the Argos computer-based interlocking that SNCF Network is developing, and will be tested by mid-2025 on a 16km pilot installation on the branch line between Cannnes and Grasse in the south of France.

Argos will then be gradually deployed on the main line from Marseille to Cannes, Nice and the Italian border at Ventimiglia, where the first section is due to come into service at the end of 2027.

The Argos programme will see the renewal and digitalisation of signalling interlockings across France, significantly increasing the capacity of the national network and improving train punctuality while ensuring a maximum level of safety.

Hitachi Rail has been involved in the Argos programme since 2018. Within the framework of the new contract, it will develop ERTMS V 3.6.0 functionalities including digital block.

Migrating from lineside signalling to cab signalling under ERTMS will both improve interoperability and allow for the increased integration of new operations management tools, Hitachi Rail says.

The European Union’s mid-term objectives include the deployment of ERTMS on over 6000km of 28,000km French rail network, including high-speed lines.

“With this new contract, we are implementing an essential component of the new generation of lineside ERTMS,” says Mr Olivier Bancel, deputy director general of projects, maintenance and operations at SNCF Network.

“It is therefore a fundamental step in our roadmap towards a new digital signalling system, a major challenge for SNCF Network with a view to developing a modern, reliable and robust service for the benefit of our customers.”

“With this contract Hitachi Rail, supplier of lineside ERTMS for high-speed lines, becomes the supplier of lineside ERTMS for the national rail network over the coming years,” says Mr Gilles Pascault, CEO of Hitachi Rail STS France.