ÖBB (Austrian Federal Railways) has revealed its €400m ($434m) agreement with Siemens Mobility to expand the European Train Control System (ETCS) across its network.

Siemens will upgrade Austria’s “high-level” rail network to ETCS 2 and build 21 ETCS Radio Block Centers (RBCs) by 2038 to provide a “fail-safe” for the digital control system. 

The upgrade work is already underway, according to a Siemens statement, a long-term partner of ÖBB.

Upgrading the network to ETCS 2 is a key part of ÖBB’s strategy to double the capacity of its entire national network by 2040, in anticipation of increasing passenger numbers. 

ÖBB-Infrastruktur CEO Johann Pluy explained: “Efficient railway infrastructure is critically important for achieving Austria’s climate goals.

To help us handle the expected increase in rail traffic and shift away from roads, we are relying extensively on digital initiatives and ETCS Level 2 is an enormously important component for railways of the future.”

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The technology uses sensors on tracks and trains to relay real-time location information and improves network capacity and efficiency with the so-called “electronic vision” of the track ahead.

“ETCS thus provides the basis for autonomous driving at optimum speed. This, in turn, saves energy and protects the environment. Without ETCS, long distances must be maintained between trains because of their lengthy braking distances. Thanks to precise high-tech tracking of the trains and mobile communications, ETCS reduces headways, allowing more passengers and freight to be transported in a shorter time,” according to Siemens Mobility.

Alongside ETCS 2, Siemens will install its DS3 cloud-based signalling software across Austria to “enable ETCS control centres to be further optimised and given greater flexibility”. 

Andre Rodenbeck, CEO of Rail Infrastructure at Siemens Mobility, said: “We are proud to be working with ÖBB to equip the Austrian rail network with ETCS Level 2 and the commissioning of this route marks an important milestone in ÖBB’s continuing expansion of ETCS coverage.

“The use of ETCS Radio Block Centers and our innovative software-based DS3 safety platform will significantly increase route capacity and make the Austrian railway system one of the most modern in the world.”