Development of the European Railway Traffic Management System ERTMS in Spain started in 1995 with the EMSET project (Eurocab Madrid-Sevilla European Tests) in La Sagra, Toledo. State-owned, public works research centre CEDEX* also developed the Eurobalise Certified Laboratory.

On top of that, the Albacete-Villar de Chinchilla ERTMS L1 and L2 pilot line was built. In the meantime works began on different high-speed lines: first Madrid- Lerida (with Ansaldo equipment), then Zaragoza-Huesca (Alstom too), followed by Lerida-Barcelona, Madrid-Valladolid (Thales), Córdoba-Málaga (Dimetronic) and finally Barcelona-Figueres-French
border and Madrid-Levante, currently under construction.

All this ERTMS deployment has meant developing the system – from its foundations up to system requirements and into commercial operation, displaying interoperability amongst vendors This Spanish ERTMS roll-out also means that a huge matrix of different track-train integration situations have been studied. This is because in Spain almost all the
manufacturers supply the track and on-board systems. The onboard equipment as well as the track systems used have been developed and debugged i Spain, with the successful testing of 14 different interoperability scenarios – a unique case worldwide.

To reach this point, a review of the necessary procedures to be followed before the commercial start-up of services for track and trains equipped with ERTMS was carried out.


As with any new system, when you start from scratch it’s important to find the best approach. The first need was to open the Madrid- Zaragoza-Lleida high-speed line (first section linking Spain’s two biggest cities: Madrid and Barcelona). In this case, we started with two separate systems that had completed their validation and verification processes independently.

But was this enough?
The answer at this point was no. The Ministerio de Fomento (Ministry of Public Works), together with rail infrastructure manager Adif, operator Renfe, TIFSA (Spanish consulting company with advisory role to the Spanish Ministry) and CEDEX, designed a set of ‘complementary tests’ for both EVC (European Vital Computer) and tracks, as well as integration between them, that have since served as a reference for the service start-up of the overall system. For the EVC, Subset 076 contains specifications for the test cases related to the Eurocab. For the track system, the manufacturer and the infrastructure manager perform the validation tests, but there is no norm related to this in the TSI.

Nowadays a collection of subsets (110, 111 and 112) contains specifications for testing the whole system. But in the past there were none for checking integration between the track and train. Hence the reason for developing the complementary tests in Spain.

In addition to problems of interoperability between systems, there are also issues related to the coexistence of different versions of specifications, which result in migration problems in the real systems. Changes to the different ERTMS specifications are another important reason for introducing the complementary tests when preparing new lines and trains for ommercial service, and for granting authorisations to different trains to run through different ERTMS equipped

Consequently the whole process has become more complicated and the tests themselves too. Since the first version of the specifications was issued in 2004, the tests have been expanded and modified according to experience gained.


Spain boasts almost 1,500km of high-speed lines in commercial service that are ERTMS-equipped, with over 98% punctuality. The country has also succeeded in resolving problems caused by different interpretations of specifications and the poor definition of some points, where specifications were not mature enough. To ensure th ERTMS lines line work in harmony, Adif has produced a document, in collaboration with experts in the field, containing all the ERTMS
requirements for the track system, specifying the track system the manufacturers must provide with the new implementations. Also, huge efforts have been made to set up an ERTMS L1 and L2 laboratory for performing complementary tests; here the role of TIFSA and CEDEX is crucial.

There are currently many ERTMS related research projects underway.

≠ Euroloop: infill cable for providing information upstream
≠ TAISE: national development of an ERTMS system
≠ ERTMS Benchmark: ERTMS cost study
≠ INESS: interface development between ERTMS and interlocking

The latter two are being developed within the framework of the UIC. There are also plans to establish a Technology Centre in Malaga that includes an ERTMS laboratory.

All these ERTMS roads have encountered numerous obstacles on route. This has given rise to groups of people with a ‘knowhow of the system and huge expertise in resolving issues prior to entering into commercial service.

All the work in Spain is made up of small challenges that will certainly have a wider-reaching impact on the global development and improvement of the ERTMS system at large

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