Developing and Deploying Innovative Technologies in a Liberalized European Railway System

Developing and Deploying Innovative Technologies in a Liberalized European Railway System


G de Tilière, BG Eng. Consultants, CH; M Laperrouza, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, CH



Completion of international rail corridors of the TEN networks has become a critical issue in the achievements of the European Transport Policy. Interoperability across the railway system plays a central role in making Europe?s harmonisation and liberalisation policies a reality. Most of the EU efforts in technical harmonisation are directed towards developing a pan-European train control system ? representing a major impact on new signalling investments for railway undertakings. This new technology will notably improve the performances of the rail transportation system in terms of interoperability between railways networks, of capacity and of traffic management. It rests on a stream of technological innovations that take place in an environment completely reshaped by the radical change the railway sector underwent in the past decade.

The paper highlights the major transformation that occurred in the rail sector by describing the new innovation and institutional models in development and deployment of the ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) and GSM-R. Both technologies aim at lowering national entry barriers for railways and at promoting interoperability across Europe. They will lead to the standardisation of the future European Train Control Systems (ETCS). The paper builds on high-level interviews conducted between 2007-2009 with the main stakeholders (ERA, the EU commissions, UNIFE/UNISIG for the industry and railways). It discuses innovation and institutional models by focusing on the key challenges the sector currently faces. The paper argues that system-wide innovation required for the improvement of large infrastructures ? with impacts equipment of infrastructures, rolling-stock, control centres as well as operating rules ? represent a particularly large challenge in the newly liberalized environment. It concludes that the successful introduction of changes on a rail network with high traffic density is only possible if a strong coherence between policy, institutions and technology is ensured.


Association for European Transport