The Danish re-signalling programme is the largest of its kind that Europe has ever seen.
Initiated in 2008, it will see the replacement of a 50-year-old lineside system - featuring some assets that dated back to the First World War – with European Train Control System (ETCS) level 2 baseline 3 across more than 3,000km of mainline routes.
At the same time, Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) is being introduced to Copenhagen’s 170km suburban network.
On behalf of the national infrastructure manager, Banedanmark, Ricardo Certification is performing assurance roles on the migration to both ERTMS and CBTC systems, including Assessment Body and Notified Body services, as well as acting as the Independent Safety Assessor.
Despite the delays to be expected on such a major project - no other railway has attempted such a wholesale transition before - the programme has now hit its stride.
Two ‘Early Deployment’ lines entered into service in 2019, followed earlier this year by the first Roll Out line for the western region. A Roll Out line in the east is due to commission shortly and further routes are scheduled to open at six-month intervals.
Wholesale change on a fully operational railway
But reaching this point has not been without complications for all parties.
“It has certainly proved more challenging than envisaged at the outset”, says Thomas Rasch, Business Manager for Ricardo Certification in Denmark.
An environment that previous ERTMS installations around the world have not had to address
“One of the main complications is that this is not a ‘greenfield’ ERTMS installation. It is a network where there are still many operational interfaces to legacy systems, and traffic that tends to be local services rather than intercity. It is an environment that previous ERTMS installations around the world have not had to address”.
“For example, engineering and testing work is typically undertaken when commercial operations are closed. This means there are a lot of daily system changeovers for safety critical assets such as point machines and level crossings, with ERTMS used during the night and switching back to the legacy ATC system in the daytime”.
The resignalling work has also had to progress alongside Denmark’s plans to electrify its mainline routes which also required the procurement of new electric rolling stock. The multiple interfaces that are affected when migrating from diesel to electric vehicles, as well as to new a signalling system, has only added to the complexity.
However, feedback from the Early Deployment Lines has been positive, with performance generally exceeding expectations. And Thomas and his team of assessors based in Ricardo Certification’s Copenhagen office believe the experience accumulated during the early deployments means the roll out of future routes will progress more smoothly.
“We’re now working to a schedule of one roll out line a year for both the East and West routes through to 2030,” he says. “Meanwhile, the retro-fitting of vehicle fleets to operate with combined ATC and ETCS operation has progressed well, including the approval of the flexliner IC3 train class and others”.
Continuity and flexibility
The Certification team have learnt how to absorb the delays and handle peaks as they arise, yet also ensure the approvals process does not create a bottleneck when works regain momentum.
“Given the scale and technical remit of the programme, delays and setbacks are inevitable. For us, as the independent assessors, we’ve used that time to spread the workload and manage upcoming peaks in assessment work. But the delays can also mean some deadlines suddenly cram into the same time period, requiring ‘all hands to the pump’ to deliver urgent assessments, even when the evidence only became available in the final moments’.
When supporting a programme that will eventually span over two decades, a level of continuity in terms of both approach and personnel is essential. As such, Ricardo Certification has sought to provide a consistent team of assessors working to a clear methodology.
A single Project Manager, Najla Knidiri, co-ordinates all activities, whilst a Lead Assessor is assigned to each of the major programme elements (Fjernbane East; Fjernbane West; S-Bahn; Onb-Board; Operational Rules, etc.).
Each Lead Assessor is supported by a pool of assessors based in Denmark, but also by colleagues in Sweden, UK, Spain and Netherlands, ensuring access to the right expertise whenever required.
Regular meetings between the approvals teams enable the project leads to compare notes, discuss issues under investigation and ensure consistency. Lead Assessors will also liaise closely with the project Safety Managers to anticipate upcoming assessment priorities.
“An important lesson from the S-bane CBTC project is continuity: the fact that both the project’s Safety Manager and the Lead Assessor have been in their roles throughout means a relationship of trust, understanding and co-operation has been built. The S-bane Project Safety Team has therefore always been willing to share information and invite our representatives to witness significant meetings (Hazard Identification Workshops, for example) and major test events”.
“In return, we have built up our capabilities here in Copenhagen so that when we do need to witness a HAZID, for example, we can do so at short notice and with minimum time, expense and travel”.
We have found the transition to remote working easy
“We have also invested in collaboration tools such as Skype and Microsoft Teams to help us operate as an integrated team in many locations – which has also been helpful during the COVID-19 lockdown. We have found the transition to remote working easy with little impact on our ability to track the projects, host workshops and share documents".
“It has also raised interesting possibilities for the future. In Ricardo, we have rail industry experts located all over the world – across the Middle East, Asia and Australia, for example – and technologies such as the Ricardo Compliance Tool mean that in future we can look to bring in a wider pool of expertise to work on our live documents – and support projects almost round the clock when you consider the time zones available to us".
Long road ahead
Both the resignalling and electrification works are expected to be complete by 2028-2030. At which point, Denmark will boast a network to rival any new build: a cleaner, more efficient network supporting higher speeds, shorter headways, reduced service delays and improved safety standards. It will also ensure full interoperability in accordance with European standards.
The pathway to completion has many hurdles to clear, but there is a sense that the major challenges have been overcome with long-term plans falling into place. The Ricardo team will be there to provide the required support every step of the way.