Belgian rail: end of the ‘crocodile’ security system
Belgium’s rail infrastructure manager Infrabel will disassemble the “crocodile” systems on railways, some 1.700 in total, starting in the region of Ghent. It is the oldest train security system installed in Belgium and will be replaced by the newer ETCS system.
The ‘crocodile’ is merely used in France, Belgium and Luxembourg and was already introduced more then 100 years ago. It’s placed between the rails a few hundred metres before important signals and makes contact with the train when it runs over it. The driver has to acknowledge the contact. If not, the train is stopped automatically.
With goods train accidents like in Buizingen, Godinne, Schellebelle and Tintigny, the federal government, SNCB/NMBS and Infrabel decided in 2011 to accelerate the installation of the EU automatic braking system ETCS (European Train Control System).
The priority was given to the three “corridors” relaying Belgium to the Mediterranean Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Rhône Valley. Passenger trains currently using the TBL1+ system, will be equipped by the ETCS system by 2023.
Today the ETCS is installed on all major commercial networks but EU law prohibits the governments to impose to private railway operators to equip their trains with the system before 2025. In 2013 the government and Infrabel found a way to get around that law by disassembling the old “crocodile” system from 2016 on. The government doesn’t force operators to use the ETCS system but it prohibits them to use anything else.
In 2015, former Mobility Minister Jacqueline Galant (MR) delayed the implementation to 2017 due to complaints from operators evoking the impossibility to be equipped on time due to supplier’s delays. From September on, Infrabel will disassemble the first “crocodile” systems in a test area. The removal of the remaining 1.700 will follow in 2018.