Alstom: New solutions for European railways


The joint efforts of the European Commission and leading companies from the railway industry like Alstom have already culminated in the implementation of the common European Rail Train Management System (ERTMS).


One of the main actors in this development process is the French giant Alstom. On 3rd-4th May this year in Rome, Alstom, as main developer and implementer of ERTMS Level 2, presented its characteristics and functionalities to a large audience of journalists from Europe and beyond.


According to Francois Lacôte, Senior Vice President of Technology at Alstom Transport, the development and implementation of ERTMS became possible due to two fundamental reasons: interoperability and the opening up of the market. Alstom has already supplied its Level 2 “onboard” ATLAS system for over 500 trains in Switzerland. Thanks to these solutions, trains can now run at 200 km/h, reducing the journey time from Bern to Zurich from 70 to 55 minutes. Another concrete realisation can be found in Greece, where Alstom equipped the suburban line over 60 kilometres of track between Athens and its airport with ATLAS ERTMS. And obviously on high-speed lines, Alstom equipped the first very-high-speed line with the ATLAS ERTMS Level 2 system. The Rome-Naples line has a 216-kilometre-long track and 18 stations. It came into commercial service in December 2005 and was officially inaugurated in January 2006. Alstom supplied the on-board ATLAS equipment for 27 ETR 500 type trains running at 300 km/h.


At first glance, the system looks expensive – its implementation costs about EUR85,000 per kilometre. Still, as Charles Carlier, Senior Vice President for South Europe at Alstom Transport, stated: “Generally speaking, this system is not more expensive than previous systems”. It makes it possible to save costs for on-land (track-side) and on-board equipment, and ultimately for the training of locomotive drivers, who will no longer be obliged to acquire in-depth knowledge of various signalling systems. It should be particularly noted that the European Commission provides 50% of the investment for ERTMS implementation.


Alstom’s activity is not limited only to equipping lines and trains with ERTMS. With over 35 product lines and a presence in over 60 countries, its Transport sector offers state-of-the-art products and services to four types of customers: public transport operators and administrators; major line operators and rolling stock owners; freight operators; and railway infrastructure owners. Alstom’s Transport sector, with turnover of over ˆ5 billion for the 2005-2006 financial year, is among the world leaders in the railway industry. It has 26,000 employees, working in over 60 countries, such as France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Brazil, China and the US, to name a few.


Although Bulgaria is still far from high-technology railway services, our country is being integrated in the common European transport system. Large-scale reconstruction and development of infrastructure and rolling stock is necessary so that our country could play its due strategic role on the liberalised market of railway services. It is the potential growth and mutually beneficial cooperation that attracts to our country large investors in the railway sector of Alstom’s class.


The company is also interested in the large infrastructure projects, which should become national priorities in spite of any changes in the political situation.

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