smartrail 4.0: A modernization programme for the Swiss rail sector. 

Over the next few years, a number of technical production systems which are important for train travel will be replaced due to their age. At the same time, technology is developing at an ever increasing rate, offering railway companies new opportunities to improve efficiency and punctuality.

SBB, BLS, Schweizerische Südostbahn AG (SOB), Rhaetian Railway (RhB), Transport public fribourgeois (tpf) and the Public Transport Union (PTU) would like to make joint use of this opportunity. Together, as part of the industry programme smartrail 4.0, these companies are making rail fit for the future. It is the first programme to cover the entirety of railway production, from timetable planning right through to train control.

As a first step, in the period up to 2020, the concept for this overall architecture has been consolidated and fleshed out, and a more detailed plan has been produced. The smartrail 4.0 programme is divided into five subprogrammes and covers technological development over the next 20 years. The participating groups are modernising the rail system with the aim of ensuring the robustness of future services, increasing the capacity of the existing infrastructure, increasing the safety of employees in the track area, and stabilising system costs. 

Vision and objective

With smartrail 4.0, rail is being made fit for the future. The railway system is being modernised using new technologies, with the aim of ensuring the robustness of future services, increasing the capacity of the existing infrastructure, further improving safety for employees in the track area and stabilising system costs. This is intended to maintain the competitiveness of the railways in the years to come – rail excellence, now and in the future!

The concrete objectives of smartrail 4.0 include:

  1. Ensuring the robustness of the future range of services
  2. Increase in line capacity on the existing network 
  3. Increasing safety, especially when shunting and on construction sites
  4. Better customer information and high data transfer
  5. Stabilisation of system costs in railway production
Comparison Today vs. smartrail 4.0

Technical target vision

 The technical objective of smartrail 4.0 is based on the existing protocols of the European Train Control System. However, the complexity of facilities will be considerably reduced by means of the industry programme and there will be a simultaneous implementation of new technologies. This will result in an overall architecture with homogeneously coordinated components that simultaneously define the scope of the programme:

  • Physical rail infrastructure: smartrail 4.0 relies on the existing infrastructure and does not require any compulsory adjustments. However, its implementation will make all signals, signboards and most track-release signalling equipment unnecessary. This will result in a 70% reduction in external installations and corresponding cost savings in construction and maintenance.
  • On-board equipment: smartrail 4.0 shifts functionalities from the infrastructure to the vehicle (for example, localisation: from the electronic signpost to vehicle location accurate to the metre). With a fundamentally different approach similar to examples from the avionics and car manufacturing sectors, a standardised architectural concept is envisaged, with separation of hardware and software procurement.


  • Automatic Train Operation: Smartrail 4.0 will introduce automatic train operation (ATO) in a supporting role as part of an incremental development of the current driving recommendations. The current goal is automation level GoA2 (autopilot, engine driver still present and responsible for safety). Thanks to the more precise speed control, ATO results in more capacity, punctuality and the potential for energy savings.
  • Precise localisation: All trains can be located precisely, continuously (i.e. without fixed block intervals) and safely (including train integrity). This allows for more precise control of train movements and thus increases line capacity. In addition, track-release signalling can be removed, saving costs.
  • Connectivity: A prerequisite for optimised control is high-performance data transmission. To achieve this, the programme relies on the upcoming FRMCS standard to replace the current GSM-R system.
  • ETCS signal box: It is the task of the central ETCS signal box to check whether movement authorisations and hazard areas on the track have been created, modified or resolved. This central component integrates and simplifies existing signal boxes and Radio Block Centres. The ETCS signal box is based on a geometric safety logic, which creates more capacity and simplifies complex project planning. The ETCS signal box functions purely as a "gatekeeper".
  • Traffic Management System: Ensures consistent planning and control of train traffic. Drawing up timetables and rail traffic control will be largely automated. In the event of deviations, a new, optimised timetable is automatically created. This ensures that the existing railway system will be used in the most efficient way at all times.

The full impact and thus the greatest benefit is achieved by implementing all components. In order to reduce complexity, detailed phasing options have already been developed for full-coverage implementation.


Seit 2017


In der Konzeptphase wurde bis 2020 eine einheitliche Gesamtarchitektur entworfen.

ab 2020

Systembereitstellung und Erprobung

.damit der industrielle Rollout zuerst auf Einzelstrecken…

ab 2027

Industrialisierter Rollout

…damit der industrielle Rollout zuerst auf Einzelstrecken…

ab 2030

…und dann auf dem Kernnetz erfolgen kann.

bis 2040

Mehr erfahren


The smartrail 4.0 programme is based on an overall architecture with several coordinated components. The full impact is achieved by implementing all components, including the simplification of the current external installations.  In order to obtain benefits early on and to master the complexity in the overall system, the programme is divided into four stages:

Phase 1

Conceptual phase 2017-2020:
Preparation of architectural, technical and functional requirements for future systems. The technical feasibility was validated and the documents were brought to decision and tendering maturity.

Phase 2

System preparation and testing phase 2020-2026:
Based on the architectural specifications and standards, the products are developed by the industry and the concept is tested on three test routes. Not all SR40 functionalities will be available at this point.

Phase 3

Rollout on individual routes 2027-2030
Based on the results of the tests, the new system is installed on individual lines which have limited rail vehicle circulation and which can be isolated. This is done so that as little rolling stock as possible has to be converted to the new technical specifications.

Phase 4

Industrialized Rollout on the core network 2030-2040: 
The industrialised rollout of the core network will be carried out by 2040 in ten segments. After completion of the rollout, full smartrail 4.0 functionality will be available throughout the country, so that the full utility will be achieved for the first time in 2041. 

The migration is based on the TSI CCS (Technical Specification for Interoperability Command & Control Signalling), for which the next major update is expected in 2022. It will include important functions for smartrail 4.0, such as the use of FRMCS for ETCS and radiotelephony, Automatic Train Operation, virtual electronic signposts, and train integrity (for ETCS Level 3).