GSM-R Telecommunications

GSM-R is the European railway telecommunications standard which links trains to railway regulation control centres, and train personnel to ground staff. By late 2016, it is planned that 15,000 kilometres of lines on the French railway network, representing 80% of traffic flow, will be equipped. GSM-R technology will be operational by late 2015 on nearly 50% of these lines. Deployment is being conducted as part of a Public-Private Partnership with Synerail. Other ground-to-train radio links are also being used on the network. These are described in Chapter 3 of the National Railway Network Statement (DRR).

Optimised capacity and improved safety

GSM-R (Global System for Mobile Communications – Railway) is the new international standard dedicated to railway transport. It is based on the same technology as GSM – the general public mobile telephone standard – and features specific functionalities. Thanks to GSM-R, regulation control centres can, for example, prioritise calls and simultaneously communicate with a group of trains in a given geographical area in “conference” mode. This improves communication in the event of unforeseen difficulties and increases train traffic safety.

Thanks to GSM-R, train drivers are also able to effectively communicate with the different railway personnel: traffic regulators, operating teams, on-board train staff and station masters.

"GSM-R contributes to the improvement of safety and the overall quality of service"

In addition, GSM-R is used for the exchange of signalling data between trains and regulation control centres. The train communicates its position and speed, and in returns receives permission to continue its journey at a revised maximum speed. Combined with the signalling system, GSM-R technology is also a tool to optimise capacity performance and improve network safety.

The advantages of GSM-R

European interoperability

Addressing the need for interoperability between the different European countries, GSM-R will be deployed in France over 15,000 kilometres of lines by late 2016. In the 18 European countries taking part in this initiative, two thirds of the eligible lines will be equipped, thereby replacing about 35 different ground-to-train radio systems.

Concretely, this means that a train will be able to travel safely over the different railway networks with the same single piece of equipment. GSM-R is the standard used for the exchange of data by the European Traffic Control System (ETCS), the unified safety, signalling and monitoring system for railway transport in Europe.

The combination of the GSM-R standard and ETCS constitutes the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS).

A one billion euro pubic-private partnership


The Public-Private Partnership (PPP) signed in February 2010 for the deployment of GSM-R by SYNERAIL was at the time one of the largest agreements of the type ever concluded in France. As a result of this sort of financing of public interest infrastructures by private sector firms, the partner companies were able to immediately start the construction of a railway telecommunications network which would have undoubtedly taken much more time to build had only public funds been available. The deployment of this network will be completed over 15,000 km of railway lines in late 2016 and SYNERAIL will operate the network until the end of the contract in 2025.

Other systems

Other ground-to-train radio systems (with and without data transmission) are currently being used on the French railway network. These systems are described in Chapter 3 of the DRR Reference Document. The distribution of these systems on the French network is indicated in Annex 6.8 of the same document.