With ETCS (European Train Control System) Switzerland has implemented the standardised European train control system. It is intended to gradually replace the variety of systems currently used in Europe, thus making rail transport more efficient and further simplifying cross-border journeys.
The European Union stipulates the deployment of ETCS on international transport corridors in the medium term. Switzerland, which lies at the centre of the Rhine-Alps north-south corridor, has carried out pioneering work on the implementation of ETCS. Since 2018, most of the Swiss standard-gauge network has been equipped with ETCS, which has replaced the legacy national systems SIGNUM and ZUB. Vehicles no longer need to be equipped with multiple train control systems.
ETCS is part of the ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) along with other components of the signalling system, the traffic control and automation systems and the railway-specific mobile communication system GSM-R. According to the ERTMS strategy issued by the Federal office of transport (FOT) in the year 2021, these systems shall be further optimised in a targeted manner with the aim to make rail traffic more reliable and efficient and to simplify it across borders.
While lines operated with trackside signals are equipped with ETCS Level 1 Limited Supervision, the cab signalling system ETCS Level 2 is used on ten lines (section between Berne and Olten, base lines through the Lötschberg, Gotthard and Ceneri tunnels, sections between Lausanne and Sierre).
According to the ERTMS strategy, ETCS Level 2 shall undergo a needs-oriented further expansion in the short and medium term. In the long term, the aim is to implement cab signalling across the entire standard-gauge network.
By means of performance agreements, the FOT provides several hundred million Swiss francs for the railways to implement further ETCS and ERTMS expansions in the network. The successful implementation of future infrastructure projects requires all rolling stock to be equipped with adequate ERTMS components. To operate on lines with cab signalling as well as lines with trackside signals all newly purchased vehicles must be equipped with the current ETCS version (baseline 3).