The commissioning of the High Speed line between Amsterdam and the Belgian border has been delayed. Again. Yesterday NRC Handelsblad a Dutch newspaper, reported Minister of Transport Camiel Eurlings announced yet another delay in parliament, citing the “complex ERTMS signalling system, of which installation takes longer than expected” as the cause. The line, which cost 6.3 billion Euro, was completed in 2006. The first train was scheduled to run in April 2007. By then an upgrade from the original ERTMS specification (version 2.2.2) to the corridor version 2.3.0 had already been completed at another 7 figure sum. But apparently all three train types intended to run on the HSL-Z still struggle to operate under ERTMS on it. Interestingly among the three types, the Bombardier Traxx locomotives, the Ansaldo-Breda internal 250 km/h shuttle and the Thalys, the Ansaldo-Breda train has never even been sighted on the line yet. It is a “ghost train” of which one prototype appears to exist, that may or may not have completed one or two test laps on the Velim test ring, but otherwise its delivery had already been delayed for years, similar tot the Danish intercity trains. The Traxx locomotives are leased by High Speed Alliance to pull rakes of internal Dutch intercity coaches at 160 km/h. To date it has no operational ERTMS level 2 implementation, no wonder then that it struggles, but should be able to run under ERTMS level 1. The consortium that built the line decided to dual-equip the line with ERTMS Levels 1 and 2. No because the client had asked for that feature, but because of some worries about meeting the required reliability targets if they did not. NS reports that in their test operations with these trains only a service reliability of 50% can be achieved (although informed sources suggest there are more issues here than ERTMS alone).
Members of parliament have reacted furiously at the shambles and perhaps it is time for a fact-finding mission to Switzerland, where the Bern-Olten line and the Lotschberg tunnel line operate under ERTMS Level 2 to the satisfaction of the Swiss. Or closer to home perhaps? The Betuwe freight line between the German border and Rotterdam operates under ERTMS level 2 and although capacity is still restricted by some technical issues unrelated to ERTMS, it seems to be doing fine.