ERTMS expert centre


What is ERTMS?

The European Railway Traffic Management System (ERTMS) is a mix of on-board technology and mobile communications that helps bring a unified signalling and control system throughout Europe.


ERTMS is not unique to Europe: Almost half of all investment in ERTMS to date has been in countries such as China, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Benefits of ERTMS

By introducing a common technical standard for traffic control, Europe’s railways will be taking a significant step towards a truly seamless network.

As well as bringing interoperability between networks - in other words, making the EU’s different technical systems work together – the adoption of common standards will promote cross-border services, increase competition and reduce bottlenecks.

ERTMS will also spell the end for lineside signalling systems. Instead, drivers will use on-board signalling equipment (referred to as the European Train Control System or ETCS) that receives information direct from regional control centres.

Railway Signalling Training Ricardo ATBL NL And ATBLNLEG


Ever since Europe began building railways in the nineteenth century, they were typically planned, constructed and operated as national assets by each individual country.

The legacy of this parochial approach was a patchwork of differing technologies and operating rules from one country to the next.  Today, there are more than 20 different mainline signalling systems in use across the EU, each requiring bespoke components, certification and driver competences.

The complexity of so many incompatible systems and governing authorities in relatively close proximity has been a primary reason why cross-border rail travel in Europe has failed to reach anywhere near its full potential (consider that a train travelling from Amsterdam to London must cross ten system ‘boundaries’).

Our timeline

Decades of global ERTMS and ETCS experience

Ricardo has a long history of working on and bringing ERTMS projects into use. The timeline below details some of the projects we have delivered across the globe. 


Project Date

K-ERTMS System Assurance, RAM support for KORAIL


Early stage monitoring of ERTMS and specific transmission modules onboard Dutch passenger fleets


Authorisation of Railion DE6400 freight locomotive for ERTMS operation on the Betuweroute


Thalys High speed ETCS retrofit for HSL-Zuid


Driver Task Analysis and operational specification for Cambrian Line ERTMS Early Deployment Scheme


Notified Body and Independent Safety Assessor for the migration of Denmark's national railway to ERTMS Level 2


ETCS Level 1 ATP software validation for CRSCD


Systems integration support for Thameslink deployment


Safety strategy for UK Great Western signalling upgrades in preparation for ETCS overlay


Engineered fitment of ERTMS equipment to Class 66 locomotive for Mitsui Capital Rail Europe


Certification of Korea Train Control System (K-ETCS)


Safety strategy for Network Rail for the Great Western route signalling upgrade


Notified Body for Euro Freight Corridor 'C' ETCS implementation


Monitored the performance of the ERTMS operated ICE3M fleet on the Dutch network


Managed ETCS test programme for authorisation of Siemens Velaro Eurostar e320


TRAXX locomotive onboard software test programme


Notified Body and Independent Safety Assessor for CRSCD’s ETCS-300TZ on-board product


Notified Body and Independent Safety Assessor for CRSCD’s Eurobalise and LEU


Thales' chosen partner for the UK's Class 43 retrofit


Completion of Thameslink ETCS signalling upgrade including ATO


Notified Body and Independent Safety Assessor for CRSCD’s ETCS Level 2 RBC-TZ Radio Block Centre V2.0.0


Independent Safety Assessor Queensland ERTMS migration


Notified Body and Independent Safety Assessor for CRSCD’s ETCS-400T on-board product


Notified Body and Independent Safety Assessor for Hitachi’s ETCS F-OPE on-board product


Certification of Rhine-Alpine corridor ETCS for DB Netz (ISA & AsBo).


Notified Body for CRSCD’s KMC


Notified Body and Assessment Body for CRSCD’s ETCS Level 2 RBC-TZ Radio Block Centre V2.1.0


Siemens East Coast Mainline ETCS  L2 project (AsBo / ApBo) 2021

ERTMS enables

Providing continuous communication-based data direct to in-service traffic, ERTMS can:

  • Increase capacity on existing lines: By reducing the headway between trains
  • Support higher speeds: ERTMS allows for a maximum speed up to 500 km/h
  • Improve safety and service reliability: Increasing rail’s competitiveness in passenger and freight transportation markets.
  • Reduce maintenance costs: With ERTMS level 2, trackside signalling is not required, reducing maintenance costs and service disruption.
  • Simplify the approval process: With a proven, harmonised system, product development and manufacture becomes less complicated with suppliers able to bid for any opportunity.
Colleague Rail

ERTMS and ETCS examples

Certification of ETCS for Rhine – Alpine Corridor

The Rhine-Alpine Corridor is one of Europe's busiest freight routes, connecting the North Sea ports of Belgium and the Netherlands with the Mediterranean port of Genoa.

As one of nine defined Rail Freight Corridors across member states, it also has strategic importance in the EU's long-term goal to reduce road traffic by encouraging a 'shift to rail'.

To support higher capacity on this route and remove bottlenecks, the management board has committed to the deployment of ERTMS on the full length of the corridor.

In 2021 Ricardo was appointed by DB Netz AG, Germany's national railway infrastructure manager, to provide Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSI) certification alongside Independent Safety Assessment (ISA) and Assessment Body (AsBo) safety assessment services for the German sections of the Rhine – Alpine Corridor.

Shutterstock 1433669243 Rhine

Hitachi Rail STS ETCS - Independent Safety Assessment

Ricardo is providing Independent Safety Assessment (ISA) services for the European Train Control System (ETCS) technology to be installed on the networks serving Brisbane and its surrounding neighbourhoods.

Hitachi Rail STS has been appointed to provide the train control technology, with Ricardo chosen to independently assess that the system is designed, installed, commissioned, and documented in accordance with applicable IEC standards.

The ETCS L2 system, comprised of hardware and software, involves the installation of onboard equipment on both existing and new rolling stock, along with new trackside equipment, traffic management technologies and digital radio systems.

Existing trains are expected to be upgraded with onboard equipment over the next three years with the ETCS system fully installed and operational by 2026.

Shutterstock 142310542 Hitachi Sts Etcs

ETCS on EU Freight Corridor 'C'

Between 2013 and 2016 Ricardo provided Notified Body (NoBo) services, together with Certifer, for the implementation of ETCS throughout the Belgian section of the European freight 'Corridor C'.

'Corridor C' is a route that connects North Sea ports such as Antwerp to the industrial centres of central and southern Europe. As a cross-border route its infrastructure is required to be certified against the Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSIs), the common standards to be observed on all new - or renewed - European mainline routes. 

Siemens had already been chosen to supply the hardware and software that would provide a seamless, interoperable control system that could be used by vehicles from all member states that carried the corresponding onboard equipment.

This new control system was also required to supplement the legacy signalling and Automatic Train Protection systems in place.

Freight Corridoor C Istock 1211274325

ETCS in the Thameslink ‘Core’

Central to the entire programme is the ‘Core’ with a new signalling design to cater for up to 24 trains per hour.

Most metro systems would turn to Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) to manage the level of traffic intended for the Core because CBTC is designed for the stop-start nature of metros.

However, Thameslink uses ETCS as its standard for signalling. Thameslink developed the concept of an ETCS railway overlaid on a conventional signalling system to deliver a ‘metro style’ operation.

The high capacity is achieved through two new features:

  • ETCS allowing the implementation of shorter block sections in a conventionally signalled area, in particular around stations
  • The first use of an Automatic Train Operation (ATO) with ETCS on the mainline railway, to allow consistent train driving
Thameslink Istock 1140356705

Danish ERTMS roll out

The Danish resignalling programme is the largest of its kind. When complete, Denmark will become the first EU Member State to adopt ERTMS nationally.

The migration allows higher speeds, shorter headways, improved safety and significantly reduced delays. It will also ensure full interoperability with European standards.

Ricardo is performing various assurance roles for Banedanmark during the migration to ERTMS, including Assessment Body and Notified Body services, as well as acting as the Independent Safety Assessors. This means our experts are overseeing the overall safety assessment for the entire Fjernbane (mainline) and the compliance assessment against the Control Command and Signalling (CCS) TSI specifications.

Istock 896330276 Banedanmark Ertms

Certification of Siemens Velaro e320

Ricardo was chosen to support the certification of the new Siemens ‘Velaro e320’ trainsets for the section of the route that passes through Dutch territory.

The team was also responsible for the vehicle’s testing on the Dutch conventional and high-speed network, including the vehicle’s automatic train protection safety system, train detection system, and components such as the vehicle’s pantograph units.

Once in operation the vehicles enabled Eurostar to run services direct from London to Amsterdam in around three hours and 40 minutes, offering a competitive alternative to the air route between the two cities which, with over four million passengers a year, is one of Europe’s busiest.
The fastest London to Brussels journey times will also be reduced to just 1h 48 min.

Eurostar Velaro Siemens

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