Starter package for the European Train Control System (ETCS)

More capacity throughout the European network – with no new tracks

Digitale Schiene Deutschland is being launched to create uniform, digitally controlled train traffic throughout Europe. The ETCS is an essential building block for an interoperable route network. 

After the McKinsey feasibility study on the rollout of electronic and digital interlockings  in autumn 2018, several projects were selected that promise a major effect on increasing capacity and quality. The ‘starter package’ for entry into Digital Rail for Germany by 2030 includes:  

  • The Cologne-Rhine/Main high-speed line
  • The Scandinavia-Mediterranean Trans-European Network (TEN) corridor (sections Maschen-Magdeburg-Halle, Nuremberg-Augsburg-Munich and Munich-Rosenheim-Kiefersfelden/Freilassing) with the respective network districts
  • Digitisation of the Stuttgart node

The renewal of signalling technology, some of which dates back to the 19th century, is taking place as part of the Digital Rail for Germany  starter package through introducing ETCS in conjunction with digital interlockings (DSTW: Digitale Stellwerke).

An investment in the future 
The Federal Government plans to provide €570 million by 2023 alone to implement the three priority projects. To move fast, the economic areas along corridors of transport importance in TEN are being given priority. More than half the border crossings to neighbouring countries on the European corridors will be equipped with ETCS by then. 

How long will the entire digitisation process take? 
The digitisation of the railways in Germany can be realised within around 20 years. On average, approximately €1.3 billion a year is required for the infrastructure, plus additional funds for the vehicles.

Route overview Starter Package Digitale Schiene Deutschland

Route overview Starter Package Digitale Schiene Deutschland

European Train Control System (ETCS): increasing quality and efficiency

According to our estimates, ETCS Level 2 will create up to 20% more capacity in the network. And up to 35% is possible when all new future technologies are included. This is an increase that cannot be achieved through the costly construction of new tracks. The ETCS paves the way for digital projects by 2026 that will bring major economic and ecological benefits for Germany in the long term. Switching from aeroplanes and cars to trains will become even more attractive than before, thanks to more frequent and reliable trains. In addition, more goods can be transported on the already existing route network.

ETCS levels

The ETCS provides for different levels. As a basis for digitisation, the introduction of ETCS Level 2 without signals (L2oS) is essential. With ETCS L2oS, journey information is transmitted safely via digital radio (GSM-R/GPRS), so trackside signals are no longer required. In this way, we strengthen capacity and make the infrastructure more robust. 

ETCS Level 3 Hybrid is to be used on sections that require particularly high capacity. The occupancy status of virtual short blocks is determined with the help of train integrity messages and axle count information. In this way, sections of track can be released more quickly for following trains. The use of ETCS Level 3 Hybrid is subject to feasibility. 

Thanks to other future technologies, together with the further development of control and safety technology, the railway will soon be much more efficient. This way, Digital Rail for Germany  ensures that passenger and freight transport is faster and more punctual.

Digitale Rail for Germany: better throughout Europe

With ETCS, the introduction of further digitised future technologies is also feasible. Among others, automatic train operation (ATO) and 5G/FRMCS as a radio network contribute to interoperability in the European railway system.