Introduction of the European Train Control System in CR: So far, its fundamental features used only on 22 out of the planned 1,300 kilometres

PRESS RELEASE on Audit No. 16/16 – February 2, 2017

The Supreme Audit Office (SAO) performed an audit at the Ministry of Transport, the State Fund of Transport Infrastructure, and the state organisation Railway Infrastructure Administration and focused on the train control system development within the period from 2009 to 2016. This system should provide safe and continuous services on Czech railways when used by various carriers from the Trans-European Railway Network System. Auditors scrutinized the introduction of the Global System for Mobile Communications – Railway (GSM-R), which is a communication system that is used in the field of railway transportation and is similar to public mobile phone networks, and the European Train Control System (ETCS), which transfers data and guidelines to train drivers and allows for taking direct control over trains in case of emergency. The GSM-R and ETCS systems would ensure safe and uninterrupted operation of trans-European railway system transporters on Czech railways and enable other transporters to enter the Czech market. The SAO selected and scrutinized six projects worth more than CZK 2,100 million in total.

The GSM-R and ETCS systems should be introduced on more than 2,600 kilometres of the Czech railways around the year 2030, by the year 2050 at the latest. However, auditors revealed that within the frame of a pilot project, the Railway Infrastructure Administration had only implemented the ETCS system at a section 22 kilometres long. According to the Ministry of Transport’s original estimates, the system was supposed to be introduced on more than 1,300 kilometres of railways by 2016, which was reduced to 300 kilometres in 2015. At the time of the audit, the GSM-R system was introduced on nearly 1,750 kilometres. These delays were also caused because the Ministry had not set a binding schedule. To achieve the expected effect, both systems have to be successfully introduced.

It is not clear how much the systems introduction will cost: Based on the Ministry of Transport’s partial price estimates, the final costs might reach tens of billions of Czech crowns. In spite of the amounts spent, the Ministry will not be able to assess whether the systems’ introduction would bring the expected effect into the Czech railway transportation. The Ministry will not be able to evaluate benefits to the rail transport as it has established unsuitable indicators to do so.

Auditors also aimed at public contracts. The NKU pointed out that the GSM-R system has been monopolised by one supplier. The GSM-R monopoly was set up for the pilot project's winner in 2005. It could have been impacted by conditions and specific technical requirements established in orders by the Railway Infrastructure Administration, including excessive qualification requirements. With two out of four audited projects that were related to the GSM-R infrastructure development, the supplier was the only bidder and with the other two audited projects, there were only two bidders in spite the fact that the tender documentation was received by even ten potential bidders. With three projects, bidders appealed against tender specifications, which however, did not affect the tenders’ outcomes. Within the checked projects, public contracts amounted to CZK 1,900 million. As a result of such a monopoly, the prices of awarded contracts would significantly rise.

When scrutinizing individual public contracts, auditors revealed that the Railway Infrastructure Administration had decided to purchase the GSM-R mobile phones directly from the projects’ supplier without tenders. The prices of mobile phones varied significantly: heavy-duty mobile phones used for corresponding advanced needs cost from CZK 40,000 to CZK 64,000, while the GSM-R mobile phones for the normal operation were procured for around CZK 15,000.

Communication Department
Supreme Audit Office

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