[SystemSafety] Odd Picture Caption - Progress on N.European Transport Networks

From: Peter Bernard Ladkin < >
Date: Fri, 08 Mar 2013 09:33:22 +0100

http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/gallery/2013/mar/07/24-hours-in-pictures#/?picture=405175085&index=7 is an inspector said to be checking what "will be the first European Train Control System (ETCS) line in Belgium".

Nonsense, at least in the tense. Belgium has had an ETCS Level 2 line, running (at least) from near Aachen to Liege, since 2009, along which both Thalys and German DB ICE-International trains run between Cologne and Brussels at speeds up to 275kmh, I believe (although the ICE-I trains might be restricted to 250kmh). It cut the journey time to Liege by some 20+ minutes. It now only takes 23 or 24 minutes.

Last time I travelled the line, in February (it is part of the Cologne-Brussels leg of the trip to London) the ICE-I travelled the old river-valley route through the Ardennes, in both directions. There were some odd announcements by the train chief on the return journey as to why. He said the train's ETCS "wasn't working". I talked to him, and he suggested actually that the set had turned out not to be equipped for ETCS. I found that a bit odd, so I have a query out.

The ICE-I, which is German-made by a consortium headed by Siemens, and the Thalys, which is an Alstom TGV-type design, must be quite complex devices. Cologne-Aachen is 15kV, 16,7Hz AC (note: 16,7 is one-third of 50Hz, a more usual frequency). Out of Aachen, the line to Liege is mostly 25kV, 50Hz I believe. Liege-Brussel is a combination of 25kV, 50Hz AC and 3000V DC (I presume near to Brussels, maybe even through the station at Leuven). That is quite some kit to switch between. A switch is (noticeably) made while stationary at the station in Aachen, but the AC/DC switching on the Liege-Brussels segment is done while rolling.

Furthermore, the Cologne-Aachen segment is controlled with the German in-cab signalling and control system LZB. Aachen-Liege is ETCS, and Liege-Brussels is the Belgian TBL 2/3, all in-cab. That's quite some control kit to implement also.

All for a Cologne-Brussels journey which takes about an hour and fifty minutes (almost 10 of which are spent negotiating slowly the lines passing through the center of Brussels).

The connection is, though, key to Germany-GB rail travel. The German railway DB is intending to establish a direct Frankfurt-Cologne-London service (a couple of years ago it was slated for end-2013 but I don't think that is going to happen). That would make Cologne-London about 4 hours. Closer than Edinburgh to London. About the same as Munich to Cologne, and only a half-hour longer than it takes me to get to Frankfurt (to which I do day trips on a regular basis, for standards work). It would make London and Munich about equidistant in time from Bielefeld.

Two things seem to be in the way, both based on safety- and/or security-related concerns. One is that Eurostar is or was protesting. One may presume a business component to that. But they used to say that the Channel Tunnel emergency-evacuation was designed for trains headed by two locomotive cars at each end; it follows that the Siemens multiple-units, which have engines in the bogies, were not appropriate for the Channel Tunnel on anything other than an occasional basis. But then Eurostar ordered Siemens kit for its next generation of trains, so I guess that argument went away). The other, I guess, is likely to be the security arrangements. Eurostar trains are segregated in the stations, and have airport-like security with baggage and body scanners. So they either have to figure out how to do that in Frankfurt, Cologne and Liege, and implement a segregated through line in Brussels (the currently-segregated lines are both terminal), or figure out some other scheme. Either option seems to me to be quite hard.


Prof. Peter Bernard Ladkin, Faculty of Technology, University of Bielefeld, 33594 Bielefeld, Germany
Tel+msg +49 (0)521 880 7319  www.rvs.uni-bielefeld.de

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Received on Fri Mar 08 2013 - 09:33:34 CET

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