New signalling system on the Greek railway improves safety

The project to complete the signaling and telecommunications system of the Patras-Athens-Thessaloniki-Promachonas (PATHEP) railway axis in Greece is part of a larger infrastructure development, which started in 2000, to improve mobility in the region. This part of the project improved the signalling system, which was concluded by the end of 2015, and included a number of modernisation works to the infrastructure to improve safety and reduce travel times.

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By developing railway connections along the PATHEP line, the project aims to improve the mobility of local passengers and freight. But it also contributes to a more efficient network within the EU as it is part of the European TEN-T policy programme. This transport infrastructure policy aims to connect the continent between East and West, North and South, closing the gaps between Member States' transport networks, while keeping up with the latest technological trends.

Apart from signalisation from TX-1 to TX-5 in the Thessaloniki station area (7 km), the project installed the common European train control system’ (ETCS) level 1 along 139 km of railway lines and ETCS level 1 on board 91 carriages. GSM-R was installed on a total of 707 km of PATHEP. 

ETCS, the common European standard for train signalling and speed control, is expected to improve interoperability, safety, reliability and capacity on European railways. Deployment of ETCS across key freight and high speed corridors aims to improve the competitiveness of European railways.

Abolishing costly and lengthy procedures

With the ETCS system, 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.

Many national systems are incompatible with one another and pose a major technical barrier to international travel. Engines must either be changed at the borders or be equipped with different systems, a costly and time-consuming task. Adding an additional national system in an existing locomotive and obtaining all safety authorisations again, for example, is a 2-year-procedure which can cost over EUR 2 million. 

Benefits for citizens and the environment

Apart from improving the railway infrastructure in Greece and in the EU, the modernisation of PATHEP provides for smoother and quicker journeys, allowing the train to reach 160 km/h. Travel time from Athens to Thessaloniki is reduced from five and a half to three and a half hours.

At the same time, the train is the most environmentally friendly option for travellers. The transport sector has the second biggest greenhouse gas emissions in the EU, of which about 74% is caused by road transport, compared to 0.6% by railways. 

The development of the railway infrastructure also benefits the EU economy, helping Europe to grow and prosper. This project created 1010 jobs during its implementation, between 2006 and the end of 2015.


Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Completion of the signalization – telecommand (ETCS level 1) in 3 sections of the PATHEP railway axis and completion of telecommunications (GSM-R) on the same axis (excluding the sections Kiato – Patra, Tithorea – Domokos and Thessaloniki – Eidomeni)” is EUR 47 815 490, with the EU’s Cohesion Fund contributing EUR 35 806 630 through the “Improvement of accessibility” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

Draft date