ERTMS ("European Rail Traffic Management System") is a major industrial project being implemented by Europe, a project which will serve to make rail transport safer and more competitive. One component of ERTMS, the European Train Control System (ETCS), guarantees a common standard that enables trains to cross national borders and enhances safety.
Following an intense ten year phase of research and development, validation of the ETCS standard was carried out from 2000 to 2007 with real scale projects underway in parallel. Since 2005, feedback from projects prompted the need to fine tune the specifications in order to move from local to global compatibility and ensure interoperability between all projects in Europe. The specification, as modified by a Commission Decision on 23 April 2008, now guarantees that Europe's trains equipped with ETCS can travel on any line equipped with ETCS. On 22 July 2009 the Commission adopted a European Deployment Plan for ERTMS which provides for the progressive deployment of ERTMS along the main European rail routes. This will reduce running costs and improve the system's efficiency on long cross-border distances.
In 2005 the European Commission and the rail industry (manufacturers, infrastructure managers and undertakings) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the deployment of ERTMS on a key part of the European network with an emphasis on six freight corridors. Under the auspices of the European Coordinator for ERTMS, Karel Vinck, a second MoU signed in July 2008 included new partners and set ambitious objectives for the deployment of ETCS across key freight corridors and high speed lines which will greatly improve the competitiveness of European railways.