The transition to the modern train protection system ERTMS is a major challenge involving a long term process for years to come. ICT Group helped build an IT solution that can switch between the old and new system to allow a phased roll-out. ‘We have built up a unique knowledge position in this domain.’

Not only in Europe but worldwide countries are starting to deploy ERTMS, including China, India and Australia. ERTMS (short for ‘European Railway Traffic Management System’) aims at improving the quality of the rail network to make it more efficient and safer. The railways have become increasingly busier over the past years. Many countries, including the Netherlands, have so far used ATB rail safety systems, that focus on securing the railway section. With ERTMS trains themselves will have more ‘ears and eyes’. This new train protection system supervises continuously the speed and braking distances of each train according to track and train data. If the actual train speed exceeds the permitted data, brakes are applied automatically and the train will be stopped promptly.

Enormous scale

The transition process to ERTMS involves a long-term complex project of enormous scale and requires billions of euros in investments. The ATB signalling systems that have formed the train landscape for many years will no longer be necessary and will disappear. However, for a smooth and problem-free transition to ERTMS a temporary IT solution to take over the speed monitoring of trains in the meantime is absolutely necessary. The Dutch ERTMS organization asked ICT Group to help build this interim system, called STM ATB (Specific Transmission Module).

“We have been involved closely in the development of ERTMS since 2004. We know the system inside and out, both from the infrastructure side and from the train side”, explains system designer Frans Slothouber why ICT Group was chosen to co-develop STM ATB. Slothouber has over twenty years of experience in software development for railway systems at ICT InTraffic, part of ICT Group’s Public Mobility division. “The intention was to develop an open generic STM as a blueprint and roll it out by offering licences for purchase. In this way, transporters and train manufacturers could have their own system built for their own trains”, says Slothouber. The onboard STM ATB system forms a link between the ERTMS equipment on the train and the ATB trackside equipment and makes it possible for 'ERTMS trains' to run on ATB tracks. This makes a phased rollout of ERTMS possible, with trains able to run on both 'new' and 'old' tracks.


In the Netherlands, NS (the Dutch Railways) already uses an STM ATB license for its trains that are being converted to ERTMS. All its suppliers have been required to apply the module. Further, ICT Group works for a well-known train manufacturer, to adapt the system for use in its trains. ICT Group has developed a similar application for an ERTMS test organization for the ERTMS track in the UK.

Wilko in ’t Anker, sales director at ICT InTraffic, expects that ICT Group’s involvement with STM ATB will attract the attention of many more companies. “The transfer to ERTMS requires a lot from the railway sector, from transporters to train manufacturers and maintenance companies. 

'Many companies are looking for apt solutions, and they rely on us to help them out. We have been working for the sector for many years developing software for safety-critical railway systems',

So we have built up a unique knowledge position about what is needed to get safety-critical systems like this up and running.”

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