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Is GSM-R the limiting factor for the ERTMS system capacity?
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Transport Science, Traffic and Logistics.
2012 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (professional degree), 20 credits / 30 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

The European Rail Traffic Management System, ERTMS, is introduced as a common signalling system

for the European railway network. ERTMS consist of two main parts, the signalling part ETCS and the

radio transmission system GSM-R, based on the well-established GSM standard.

The question to be answered in this thesis is if the capacity of GSM-R is limiting the ETCS part in any

way. If that is the fact, how can the limitations be overcome?

Looking forward, will public mobile system with high transmission capacity like GPRS, LTE etc

influence GSM-R? GSM-R year 2020: how will it look?

The thesis describes the basic functions of ETCS and GSM-R, and the way they are interconnected.

The study shows that the capacity of GSM-R is sufficient for signalling on the line, even for high speed

traffic. Problems occur with a high density of GSM-R users in a limited area, for example at large

stations and marshalling yards. Also the combination of a station, with many but slowly moving units,

and a main line, with few but fast moving units, passing through the same area can cause problems.

The thesis describes various ways to solve this issue. Right now these problems are solved with

advanced cell-planning and the use of lower level implementation of ERTMS, not depend on GSM-R.

In the longer run the main solution is to introduce higher capacity packet-switched solutions like


An even greater problem at the moment is that public mobile operators providing high-speed data

services in the near-by frequency bands interfere with GSM-R. The solution to this problem is

presented as well as the problems the solution itself is causing.

In the long term perspective ERTMS will depend more and more on reliable data communication by

radio and packet-switched high speed radio solutions, which will definitely be a part of ERTMS.

To address the question raised in the thesis title: is GSM-R the limiting factor for the ERTMS system


NO, considering the actions taken and the sometimes unconventional solutions used based on

engineering expertise and creativity, GSM-R is not the limiting factor in ERTMS right now.

YES, in the long run and with broader usage of ERTMS, GSM-R has to have a higher capacity, more

functionality and be a more standardized system: more “plug&play” than “plug&pray”.


Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. , 45 p.
TSC-MT, 12-009
National Category
Engineering and Technology
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-101811OAI: diva2:549656
Available from: 2012-09-05 Created: 2012-09-05

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