MSc thesis project proposal

Train signaling technology: Beyond ERTMS

Project outside the university

Mott MacDonald (Utrecht/Arnhem)

The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) is a standard for a new train signalling system that should replace the current "traffic lights" by indicators visible in the train cabine, and ultimately enable automatic driving. The standard should replace the over 20 different signaling systems currently in use in Europe by a single, uniform system.

Dynamic Speed Authorization

ERTMS uses Movement Authorizations (MA) and Static Speed Profiles (SSP) to control train movement. However, within the limits of the MA (safe distance to a danger point) and the SSP (maximum speed allowed by the infrastructure), the train is allowed to determine its own speed. This likely forms a suboptimal control loop for full rail traffic control, which could be resolved through Dynamic Speed Authorization (DSA). Your assignment is to investigate how DSA could be accommodated within ERTMS as an alternative to MA, and how DSA and MA compare against one another.

Train Positioning with GPS

Under ERTMS, trains use balises at fixed positions in the tracks to calibrate their position and calculate the remaining safe distance within the movement authorization. Under ERTMS Level 3 (or higher) trackside train detection is no longer present, so the train needs to report its position and its integrity (meaning that the train is still in one piece) as safety relevant information. In case of major system failure, train position information could be lost, which leads to a cumbersome, and potentially dangerous, operational recovery procedure. However, train positioning under ERTMS has never yet dared to rely on public positioning systems, particularly GPS, because they are not fail-safe. Your task is to go beyond ERTMS and evaluate how GPS (or other such systems) could be deployed safely for train positioning.


The above descriptions provide examples of assignments; several other assignments are available. For more information, check here.


This thesis topic is offered by a company, Mott MacDonald (contact: dr. Eelco Schrik; This is a global multidisciplinary engineering, management and development consultancy company, with over 16,000 employees active in 140 countries. Mott MacDonald provides excellent opportunities for cutting edge and out-of-the-box research in combination with personal development while working in an international context.

The shown assignments are examples. Generally these assignments are multidisciplinary, and an interdisciplinary attitude is required. The GPS assignment requires expertise in such systems.

A selection procedure applies for this challenging graduation project / internship. If you wish to apply, please submit your résumé and motivation. An application interview will be part of the procedure.

Contact Alle-Jan van der Veen

Signal Processing Systems Group

Department of Microelectronics

Last modified: 2023-01-13