The Smartrail 4.0 programme was launched in 2017 with up to 100 people working on a simulation covering timetables, train sequencing, interlockings, connectivity, automatic train operation, shunting, and optimisation in the case of disruptions. The objective is to increase passenger and freight traffic capacity by 15-30% on existing infrastructure in Switzerland, which is already the most intensively-used rail network in Europe.

The success of this study represents a leap forward in digitalisation, according to project leader Mr Marc Reber. The plan is to develop the system in three phases with the project development phase due to be completed by the end of this year.

This will be followed by a test phase running from 2020 to 2026 where the concept will be tested on one or more lines. The next major update of the Command and Control Signalling (CCS) Technical Specification for Interoperability (TSI) is expected in 2022, which will include important features for SR40, such as using the Future Railway Mobile Communication System (FRMCS) for ETCS and voice communication, automatic train operation, virtual electronic signpost, and train integrity for ETCS Level 3.

Smartrail 4.0 will be rolled out between 2027 and 2038, delivering some major benefits. These include:

  • a SFr 450m ($US 451m) annual reduction in costs from 2040 onwards, of which SFr 270m will be from reducing the number of installations and SFr 180m will come from automation of planning and operation, and lower safety costs
  • increased capacity through the ability to locate trains precisely and deal with disruptions more efficiently
  • a 70% reduction in the number of signalboxes resulting in a 50% cut in the number of signalbox disruptions and a 2% reduction in delay minutes
  • better customer service due to higher train frequency, fewer disruptions, improved punctuality, and better passenger information
  • a 50% increase in the availability of safety installations, and
  • a “quantum leap” in safety through automation, including shunting, and the fact that all objects in the station throat will be visible electronically at all times.

Smartrail 4.0 is a joint industry programme involving Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), BLS, Southeast Railway (SOB), Rhaetian Railway (RhB) and the Swiss Public Transport Union (VöV).