Photo: Peter Öberg/SR

New rail chaos fears

Plans to align Sweden's rail network with neighbouring European countries by investing millions of dollars in a new signal system carry with it a warning of fresh chaos for train travellers.

Swedish Radio News reports that the Swedish Rail Administration is investing in a new signal system called ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System) which should make it possible to allow more trains on the rail network travelling at greater speed.

However, where the system has already been installed there have been reports of train traffic being severely disrupted by signalling problems. The Bothnia high-speed railway line in northern Sweden is one such route which has been affected according to Swedish Radio News.

"The system was oversensitive, one can say. We encountered emergency stops almost every journey," says Olle Tiderman, technical manager at Norrtrain, which runs traffic on the Bothnia line.

Train traffic along the route will be stopped for two weeks during the summer to update the new system.

The Swedish Rail Administration plans to have the signalling system operational throughout the country by 2030.

The European Commission explains on its website how ERTMS works in practice:

"Information is transmitted from the ground to the train, where an on-board computer uses it to calculate the maximum authorised speed and then automatically slows down the train if necessary. The on-board computer has to understand the information sent from the ground, yet Europe is currently host to more than 20 different ground systems. For instance, no fewer than seven signalling systems have had to be installed on the high-speed Thalys train between Paris and Brussels, generating extra costs and an increased risk of breakdowns. Deployment of ERTMS will enable trains to carry a single European system on board, thus reducing costs for infrastructure managers."

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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