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Rail: Deployment of the European Train Control System (ETCS)

6 October 2022

EQUANS is installing ETCS equipment on the Belgian rail network and contributing to the improvement of railway safety in Europe.

The aim of the European Train Control System (ETCS) is to ensure that rail transport is faster, safer, and – above all – harmonised across Europe. To take advantage of this efficient communication tool and prevent potential accidents on its network, the Belgian rail infrastructure operator, Infrabel, has entrusted EQUANS and its partner Siemens with a contract to install ETCS (level 2) equipment along 1,427 kilometres of track. This project will make Belgium one of the first countries in Europe to set up this safety system on its rail network. 

What is the ETCS?

The ETCS (European Train Control System) is a signalling, control, and safety system for trains designed to replace the often incompatible systems currently used by various European railways. This European safety system enables train drivers to do their jobs with total peace of mind, thanks to automatic speed control, the receipt of warning signals, and the repetition of side signalling on their control screen.

How does it work?

The system has several levels. Level 1, already in place in Belgium, corrects potential driver errors by automatically adapting the train’s speed when approaching a red light. At level 2, the data is sent continuously from the track to the train via a GSM-R radio communication system specific to railways that provides a permanent two-way connection between the vehicle and the side of the track.

EQUANS’s contribution

Civil engineering works, computer cabinets, on-track equipment, cabling, testing, quality control, etc. The deployment of the ETCS level 2 is currently underway in our country. “In collaboration with Siemens, the technology manager, our teams are ensuring that the works are carried out smoothly along and on the railway tracks, focusing on the assembly and electricity part,” explains Alexis Assoignon, Section Manager at EQUANS. “We work in zones of around ten kilometres, partly at night and on the weekend, during disconnections, in which periods alternative transport solutions are, of course, put in place for passengers.

A few key figures:

•    59 ETCS+ IL projects and 88 IL-only projects
•    1,427 km of tracks in Wallonia and Flanders
•    700 km of fibre-optic cable
•    1,050 km of 1 kV cable
•    4,143 km of signalling cable

•    6,706 pairs of beacons
•    1,560 hubometers
•    3,276 track circuits
•    2,752 signals

New standard

With this contract, EQUANS is playing an essential role in harmonising European rail traffic. In a few years, the ETCS will take over from the former national ATP systems everywhere in Europe. EQUANS and Siemens are working tirelessly to implement this new standard in Belgium. Currently, projects are being carried out throughout the country and the first projects are going live. The project’s completion is scheduled for the end of 2025, when the ETCS will become the technical standard for all the operators that use the Belgian network.

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