Rail & Public Transport

Operational processes and ERTMS level 1

On the Havenspoorlijn, the rail track between the Maasvlakte, an industrial zone near Rotterdam, and Barendrecht, the European Train Control system ERTMS level 1 is applied. Information about for example the permitted train speed is transmitted to the train driver not only by means of signs and signals along the track, but also by means of a display (DMI ETCS) in the train cabin.

Recently also the rail track between Barendrecht and the nearby shunting yard Kijfhoek is equipped with ERTMS L1.
Although the same level of train control is applied, there is a difference in the operational rules between both sections:

  • on the Havenspoorlijn the train driver has to act according to the signs and signals, and use the information on the DMI ETCS as a support to verify the orders from the signs;
  • on the section between  Barendrecht and Kijfhoek the driver has to act according to the information presented on the DMI ETCS, and is allowed to ignore the signs and signals.

KNV Spoorgoederenvervoer has asked Intergo to assess this difference and the possibility that it may give cause to errors or mistakes and therefor to unsafe situations.


Besides examining the rules and regulations, observations and interviews with train drivers is an important information source for these kinds of projects. This gives the consultant a clear view in the formal differences and how the drivers are experiencing these differences. It also provides the consultant a good understanding of the driver’s behaviour in both situations; the basis to determine the possible human errors due to the different operational rules.


The assessment showed that in case of a speed restriction signals order the application of the brakes earlier in comparison with the DMI ETCS. So if the train driver due to habituation still comply with the signals on the section Barendrecht – Kijfhoek, the brakes may be applied too soon and thus no unsafe railway situation will occur. If the driver misses the signal or does not react correctly the ERTMS L1 system will at any time control the permitted train speed and, if necessary, will intervene.
In case of a speed increase the driver has to wait on both sections for the moment the DMI ETCS shows the higher permitted speed. Otherwise the system will not allow the speed increasing. So also on the Havenspoorlijn the driver has to observe both the DMI ETCS and the signs and signals.

Intergo recommended to synchronise the operational processes on both sections as follows: as long as on the Havenspoorlijn the signs and signals are leading for the train driver, they should alse be leading on the section Barendrecht – Kijfhoek. For the train drivers it will lead to unambiguous and consistent operational behaviour on both sections.