European GNSS in Action: EGNSS for Safer, Sustainable Railways


The ERSAT EAV project will demonstrate how EGNSS can work with future European train management systems, boosting safety and reducing costs.

There is widespread agreement between policy-makers and rail industry stakeholdersEGNSS can work with future European train management systems to boost safety and reduce costs. in Europe that cost effective synergies between the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) and satellite technologies, such as Galileo and EGNOS, can help make rail transport more efficient, more reliable and further improve safety.

“The ERSAT EAV project represents the missing link between ERTMS and Galileo, both major European industrial projects of strategic relevance,” says Francesco Rispoli, Manager of satellite technologies of Ansaldo STS. “EGNOS and Galileo are key enabling technologies for a market driven step change in the rail sector.”

Harmonised System

ERTMS is the harmonised train control and command system for Europe that will enable the creation of a seamless European railway system, increasing European railways’ competitiveness. It has two components: the European Train Control System (ETCS), an Automatic Train Protection (ATP) system, and GSM-R, a radio system for providing voice and data communication between track and train.

The ERSAT EAV (ERTMS on Satellite – Enabling Application and Validation) project aims to assist EGNSS (EGNOS and Galileo) uptake in the rail sector in Europe and beyond, fostering competition and innovation in the European space and rail industry and research community. The project can enable ERTMS to take advantage of the “competitivity-dividend” that EGNOS and Galileo satellite technologies promise.

“The main ERSAT EAV objective is to exploit EGNSS for supporting ERTMS deployment,” explains Francesco. “In particular the project focuses on regional lines, for which a safe and reliable positioning or localisation of the trains, based on EGNOS and supplemented by local augmentation means, will be defined and developed, as a contribution  for harmonisation with the European ERTMS standard.”

The solution will be implemented on a pilot line as reference.

Regional opportunity for ERTMS deployment

Regional and local railways lines are a particular target application. Use of EGNSS could provide an economically sustainable ERTMS solution for the modernisation of these lines that are often older and more costly to operate. They also represent an enormous opportunity, as local and regional rail lines represent about 50% of the total railway track length in Europe of around 348 000 kilometres. A study by Bocconi University, one of the project partners, shows very large net benefits in the order of tens of billions of Euros for the implementation of EGNSS based ERTMS on European local rail lines.

The project will provide the first European platform for developing and validating EGNSS applications that are compatible with ERTMS. “Verification and testing will take place in a real operational environment,” says Francesco. “This will contribute to implementing EGNSS positioning under the challenging requirements of railways. Demonstrating the system solution on a real pilot line with the supervision of ANSF (the Italian Safety Agency for Rail) will act as a clear reference for the future standardisation and certification processes.”

The ERSAT EAV demonstrator unit will be deployed and tested in Sardinia on the Cagliari – San Gavino railways line.

The project held its kick-off meeting on 31 March in Genoa and is a two-year Horizon 2020 project with 12 partners (including RFI, Trenitalia and DB Netz - the leading European rail stakeholders). The project is funded by the GSA and co-ordinated by Ansaldo STS. Ansaldo STS SpA is an Italian global transportation company in the field of signalling and integrated transport systems especially in mass transit and rail applications.

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