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The development of the European rail traffic system is a priority

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Investing in the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) should be a priority of national Recovery and Resilience Plans, our Basque MEP Izaskun Bilbao Barandica pleaded on Wednesday.

The ERTMS, a signalling and speed control system, aims to make sure that national railway systems are compatible with each other. Completion of the deployment rollout, which should be achieved by 2030, would make a 40% contribution to climate and environmental objectives. It is also a crucial step towards digitalising the European economy and key to ending rail market fragmentation.

The Basque MEP presented her report assessing the ERTMS’s deployment in the European Parliament on Wednesday as part of a debate on this means of transport. The debate also included a review of the master plan for investment in infrastructures with European added value (TEN-T) and the financial mechanism that co-finances these works (Connecting Europe). Izaskun Bilbao considers the approval of these reports a fundamental step to put an end to the fragmentation of the European railway area, a problem that prevents this means of transport from contributing as much as it could do to European mobility.

One of the parts of this process is, according to the Basque representative, “to deploy the ERTMS across the entire core network of European railways on time. This is a decisive step towards guaranteeing interoperability of national railway systems. It will make trains faster, optimise the use of infrastructure by increasing their capacity by up to 30% and reduce the costs of purchasing and maintaining signalling systems.”

The measures proposed for the timely deployment of this management and control system include "accelerating the replacement of national systems with the European system. We call for national deployment implementation plans to be aligned with binding targets at EU level. We will seek to limit duplication through a transparent register of funded prototypes, and we propose a common public procurement model to improve procurement for work related to this deployment.”

Finally, the report calls for an industry strategy for ERTMS. This is essential to increase capacity, to have a stable and predictable budget, and to support the training of qualified staff and the rolling out of retrofitting workshops.

“We have tried to combine the technical rigour this subject needs with the emotional intelligence required to improve the situation," were the Izaskun Bilbao’s closing words. "By combining action, knowledge, and emotion, I hope that instead of hollow gestures, we have achieved a shared collection of practical and realistic solutions to build the confidence needed to work together. That is the goal and the way forward to get ERTMS deployed by 2030 on the entire core network and by 2040 on the global network".