Delays threaten because of new technology – economy

ETCS Level 1 Baseline 3: Anyone who now only understands the train station is not so far off the mark – the abbreviation ETCS conceals a train control system. To put it simply, this system is used to secure train traffic on the route side. And you can intervene in an emergency, for example, and trigger an emergency stop. Among other things, the system is intended to increase safety and capacity on the rails and to help trains arrive on time. Especially with the SBB A sore point: In the past month, only around 84 percent of passengers across Switzerland reached their destination on time, as the federal railways state on their website.

But the system now ensures that modern trains cannot enter certain stations as usual. The sufferers are the commuters. The Association of Swiss Engineers and Contenders drew attention to the fact this week in a message. The problem: The trains have to slow down, for example, in sack stations like Lucerne or Zurich. Railway stations where signals are relatively close to the stop are also affected, for example because there is a track crossing behind them. In addition, these trains have to slow down to red signals.

The train drivers brake early. If the train runs too fast, an emergency stop is triggered.

The system stipulates that such signals can only be approached at 15 km / h. For comparison: at a station like Olten, the trains run in at 40 to 60 kilometers per hour. The engine driver’s association is also not informed of when the maximum speed of 15 kilometers per hour applies. The time had to be “guessed”. The result: the train drivers brake early. If the train runs too fast, an emergency stop is triggered. And that is a problem: “Emergency braking when entering a train station endangers travelers,” writes the association.

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“Serious effects”

An internal SBB company report, which is available in this newspaper, warns that, due to the new top speed, connections can no longer be guaranteed. This is because «the waiting times are programmed so that these trains enter at normal speed». The association’s communication even mentions “serious effects on the availability of the track systems and thus on punctuality”.

This affects modern trains such as the Giruno, the new single-plugger on the north-south axis, the ICE4 of the German railways, but also new regional trains of the Flirt type, for example in French-speaking Switzerland. Likewise the Traverso, the new strikingly bronze train of the Südostbahn SOB.

The problem becomes acute when many trains run almost simultaneously within a short time. Such as when entering Zurich train station or just in Lucerne. If there are delays because a train in front has to arrive more slowly than originally planned, delays can occur in the tight schedule.

SBB underestimated the consequences

The SBB admit mistakes when introducing the system. “The introduction was not optimal,” says a SBB spokesman. This could result in delays of around twenty seconds. “No other effects on travelers have been found so far, the connections were guaranteed despite the delayed entry,” the spokesman continued. The situation, which is warned in the internal message – that connections can no longer be guaranteed – has not occurred according to the Federal Railways.

“SBB are working on improvements to the interaction between vehicle, operation and infrastructure.”A spokesman for the SBB

SBB had underestimated the effects on the braking of vehicles in real operation. Take the questions and uncertainties of the train driver seriously, says the spokesman. It had been shown that the trains would have to be slowed down more than in test operation of the system in order to prevent emergency braking. SBB therefore carried out test drives with train drivers to check how the instructions had to be adapted to them. “The SBB have recognized this problem and are currently working on improvements in the interaction between vehicle, operation and infrastructure,” says the Federal Railways.

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The system has not yet led to major problems for the Südostbahn, a spokesman says. But the risk that smaller delays could increase is greater with the new ETCS system. It still has to be optimized, »explains the spokesman for the Südostbahn.

Created: 10/01/2020, 11:00 PM

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