RFI’s technological excellence as the protagonist of Expo Ferroviaria

Milan, 1 October 2019

Delineating the positive effects produced by High Speed in Italy, 10 years after its commercial enactment. Divulging the details on the development of strategic infrastructure, considered amongst the largest and most demanding projects since the post-war period to date, in terms of investment, implementation complexity and technological innovation.

These are the themes of the conference “10 Years of Italian High Speed: the evolution of ERTMS from 2009 to today”, organised for the 2019 edition of Expo Ferroviaria, the main event in Italy dedicated to the railway industry.

ERTMS has been chosen by the European Union as a single standard, which guarantees the sharing of a common “language” able to promote rail interoperability between the different European countries. The HS Turin-Milan-Naples-Salerno axis, fundamental for integrating with the rest of the European network, actually extends along two of the four Core Corridor TEN-T (Trans European Network-Transport) that cross our Peninsula: the Mediterranean Corridor, from the Iberian Peninsula to the Ukrainian border, and the Scandinavian-Mediterranean Corridor, from the Baltic Sea to Malta.

The forum was opened by Claudia Cattani, Chairman of the Rete Ferroviaria Italiana (FS Italiane Group), who focused on the past, present and future challenges for the development of the High Speed/High Capacity System along the Turin-Milan-Naples-Salerno stretch.

Maurizio Gentile, CEO and General Manager of RFI, illustrated the main legs that, in successive stages, permitted the realisation of the High Speed System thanks to a mix of “heavy” (new infrastructure works) and “light” (technologies) investments.

Amongst the participants of the conference was also Paola Firmi, Director of RFI Technical Management, Paolo Genovesi, RFI's Network Safety & Quality Manager, Giuseppe Gaudiello, Chairman Assifer and Damiano Giangaspero, System Engineering Director of Alstom Railway.

Thanks to its technical know-how acquired in the field and its highly-qualified professionalism, Rete Ferroviaria Italiana, as manager of the national railway infrastructure, has made an important contribution to the design and implementation of the infrastructure system, which has changed the country and revolutionised people’s way of life.

As a symbol of Italian excellence, the HS System—with approximately 1,500 kilometres of tracks—is characterised on the international scene by having adopted cutting-edge technologies in the field of distancing in train safety and railway traffic management. These include the ERTMS (European Rail Traffic Management System), the advanced signalling system that instantaneously controls the maximum permissible speed of and distance between trains, automatically intervening upon these being exceeded.

In the "Level 2" configuration, adopted in Europe for the first time by RFI, the exchange of information between the trackside and on-board subsystem is carried out through the Global System Mobile-Railway (GSM-R) radio channel, whilst the fixed markers present along the tracks mainly perform a position reference function. Through the radio channel, the On-board Subsystem learns the train’s authorisations for movement from the Radio Block Centre (RBC).

More than 700 kilometres of HS line are now equipped with ERTMS technology. RFI’s new strategic focus, in line with the Group’s 2019-2023 Industrial Plan, is to accelerate the implementation of the system along its entire network (16,700 km of line). The aim is to equip 1,250 kilometres of lines by 2021 and 3,200 kilometres before 2023. Also planned are technological investments for the installation and renewal of 320 digital devices (ACCM - Apparati Centrali Computerizzati Multistazione being Multistation Computerised Central Equipment)—already underway—that will gradually replace the signalling systems currently in operation with all digital and interoperable technology. The total investment within the planned period amounts to 3.8 billion euro.

Another application is the innovative HD (High Density) ERTMS system, which will be installed in the urban railway hubs of Milan, Florence and Rome, with the aim of rendering railway circulation smoother, increasing traffic capacity, improving regularity and punctuality standards, whilst eliminating bottlenecks. The main feature of the system is the optimised management of traffic at urban railway hubs, dropping the current average distance between signals from 1,200 metres to about 300 metres. In this way, the space between two trains will be reduced and the capacity of the infrastructure shall be increased.

The installation of the ERTMS system in urban railway hubs is in addition to the ongoing experimentation currently being ERSAT (ERTMS+Satellite) certified on conventional secondary, local and regional lines, which integrates ERTMS with satellite technologies to control the position of the trains without the use of ground markers, availing of virtual markers instead to safely manage rail traffic also on less-trafficked routes.