ERTMS (the European Rail Traffic Management System) is the system of standards for management and interoperation of signalling for railways in Europe. The ERTMS environment consists of 3 parts:

  • GSM–R for rail telecommunication
  • European Train Control System (ETCS) for signalling
  • European Train Management Layer (ETML) for passenger and fleet management

At the same time as enabling interoperability of trains in the EU, the deployment of ERTMS has two significant benefits – to enhance safety and to increase the efficiency of train operations.

Greater train operational efficiency is gained by enabling trains to run more frequently and by enabling the trains to be longer, thereby making it easier to carry more passengers. This is made possible because in place of the previous national signalling equipment etc, ERTMS uses a single new Europe-wide standard for train control and command systems.

Why test ERTMS rail telecoms and signalling performance?

ERTMS networks are complex environments that present many monitoring challenges and issues, including:

  • GSM-R coverage needs to be available everywhere and at all times
  • Network supervision must be 24×7
  • The monitoring system needs to be able to evaluate complex systems interactions (GSM-R/ETCS/IXL)
  • The monitoring system must also identify root-causes, when anomalies occur
  • The data collected needs to be retained for a sufficient period of time to:
    • ensure that network upgrades can be properly tracked
    • perform appropriate rollbacks, in the case of malfunction
    • score performances and identify trends

If either or both of the GSM-R or signalling systems fail, the train control system is compromised and it cannot operate. This causes delays, incurs penalties and costs, and impacts safety. That is why they need troubleshooting and regular network quality assessments.

Accurate and frequent testing is used on new train lines to demonstrate they meet the necessary ERTMS and industry safety standards. Testing existing lines ensures that a high quality of service continues to be available at all times and helps with maintenance planning.

How are the tests carried out?

In many cases, the test and monitoring equipment is installed on test trains and wayside, along the track. Telecom and signalling operatives collect GSM-R and signalling data, which is used to measure the quality of service and identify issues.

However, as test trains often operate outside the main commuting times and are expensive to equip, portable GSM-R testing solutions are also used to extend the testing capability. Operators can conduct their own tests or run automated tests on-board operational trains or on platforms, using test equipment in trolleys or backpacks.

Benefits of testing and ongoing monitoring

  • source and pinpoint rail telecom network failures
  • identify when and which internal and third party interferences affect GSM-R network performances and service availability
  • source and pinpoint signalling issues
  • enable full end-to-end call tracing
  • obtain geo-location measurements in tunnels, even when GPS is unavailable
  • provide performance measurement to meet industry compliance standards
  • ensure performance measurement campaigns comply with UIC testing methodologies

Learn more about the Comtest Wireless GSM-R and ETCS test and measurement products