Auditors warn that EU rail signalling plan is running off track

4 Oct 17

European Union plans to introduce a common railway signalling system across the bloc is running behind schedule and the implementation target could be missed, auditors have warned.

The EU wants to replace diverse signalling systems around Europe with a single system. However, signalling remains in a “patchwork” state, the European Court of Auditors said in a report published yesterday.

It added that the slow rate of take up could be a result of reluctance by member states and their infrastructure providers to invest in the necessary equipment due to the expense entailed.

The ECA noted that EU funding could only cover a limited amount of the cost of deployment.  Approximately €1.2bn was allocated from the EU budget between 2007 and 2013 to member states switch to the European Rail Traffic Management System.

“The current situation puts at risk not only the achievement of the deployment targets set for 2030 and investments made so far, but also the realisation of a single railway area as one of the European Commission’s major policy objectives,” said Ladislav Balko, ECA member responsible for the report.

Despite the decision to set up a single signalling system in the EU, no cost estimate has been carried out to establish how it could be funded and from where, the report said.

The auditors made a number of recommendations to the European Commission, member states and the European Union Agency for Railways. These included an analysis of deployment costs, alignment of national deployment plans, monitoring and enforcement by 2023, and better targeting of EU funding with immediate effect for new project applications.

There are currently around 30 different rail-signalling systems across the EU. The target for the single system to be operational is 2030, but the auditors said progress to date suggested this target could be missed. 

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