Belgian railway signalling

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Belgian railway signalling is the signalling in effect on the Belgian rail network operated by Infrabel.


counter-flow track signal with a chevron and a speed restriction display (5 ⇒ 50 km/h). After this signal, the train will drive under normal track regime and cross back to the left track at 50km/h

There are in Belgium two types of train movement:

  • 'major movement' (e.g. mainline operation) that occurs during normal operation (traffic moves at the speed permitted by the signalling and regulations);
  • 'minor movement' (e.g. shunting) which is done by driving by sight and never faster than 40 km/h (25 mph).

The change from one movement to the other is done by signals (main stop signals) or a written order.

The first movement (which is always executed as minor movement) happens in the following situations:

  • a driver taking over a new train;
  • a change in driver's cab or direction of travel;
  • receipt, change or removal of train number;
  • vehicles that can drive on themselves are coupled or uncoupled
  • when permission is needed to continue to drive after an incident
  • when beginning to shunt

Within major movement, there are two regimes, linked to bi-directional operation on double track lines:

  • normal track regime: the signals are located on the left of the track. However, in some cases, the configuration of the environment precludes placing signs on the left track. They are then placed on the right and have an arrow (white arrow on a blue disc).[1]
  • counter-flow track regime: the signals are located on the right of the track and the aspects are blinking.

The most common way of regime change is by the display of a chevron (V-shaped) sign on a main stop sign (single or combined).

In minor movement, all signals are to be obeyed, both those of the left hand track and the right hand; signals controlling only minor movements are placed on the left. In counter-flow operation, some signals (light or otherwise) are specifically dedicated to minor movements and therefore are ignored by the trains travelling in major movement.

Light signals[edit]

The lights are designed and arranged to be visible from a distance (up to two kilometers on a clear day). For this they are equipped with lenses to focus light rays emitted by the bulb, which can be selected and reasonable power. That is why the lights do not seem very intense when viewed from the side while they light up sharply in normal line of vision i.e. in the direction of arrival of the train.

Note that the yellow lights often are orange in reality.

Plain stop signal[edit]

The red aspect requires a halt for both major and minor movements. It can be opened for major movement (green when the track gives access to a mainline, or double yellow in stations) or minor movement (red + white). It gives no information about the aspect of the next signal.

A white number below the main aspect restricts the speed (from the first switch or track junction after the signal).

Above the main aspect, the signal can show a chevron (to change the regime), or a "U" (when the train is led towards a dead end).

It can be mounted on a mast or gantry (above the track).

Warning signal[edit]

Warns of the aspect of a following main stop signal:
It can show a green aspect (the next signal is open without restrictions), double yellow (the next signal is at the stop aspect), green-yellow horizontal (the next signal requires a speed reduction) or green-yellow vertical (double warning in the case of a short section between the next signal and the signal after that, which has a red aspect or imposes a speed restriction).

It may also present a yellow number above the signal with the main aspects green-yellow horizontal and green-yellow vertical and thus the speed (in tens of km/h) with respect to the next signal.

Combined main stop signal[edit]

Serves as both a stop signal and a warning signal and can therefore, according to the needs of the position, present aspects of both a plain stop signal and a warning signal. This type of signal is the most common one on the mainline network.

Simplified stop signal[edit]

It can either be placed at ground level or elevated (on a post).

Photo Description
Simplified stop signal displaying 'halt' (red)
Red aspect: halt for trains in both major and minor movements.
Simplified stop signal displaying 'track clear' (yellow)
Yellow aspect: allows trains in major and minor movement to proceed (but doesn't transform the movement type). It does not give any information about the aspect of the next signal.

Small stop signal[edit]

Triangle with a black base and two horizontal white lights The halt aspect applies only to minor movements.
black triangle on base with two white lights placed diagonally to one another This aspect allows minor movement.

It is placed on the ground.[2]

An older version of the small stop signal has the appearance of the simplified signal above, but with a purple instead of a red light.

Completed operations indicator (IOT)[edit]

The Completed operations indicator is a system composed of a set of switches (activation) and light signals (display) on platforms of most stations and allows the guard to announce to the driver (conductor) that the procedure for boarding is completed and the train can start.

Where the system is installed, the yellow aspect (or white on older systems) is a prerequisite for the departure of passenger trains.

Aspects displayed by major stop signals and warning signals[edit]

signals for left and right hand track
Normal operation (left hand track) Explanation Opposite track operation (right hand track)
Signal sncb V.svg or SNCB3F V.JPG Green: allows the passage at full speed, the next signal 'track clear' without restriction or is a warning signal . Signal sncb V CCV.gif or SNCB3F V CCV.gif
Signal sncb 2J.svg Double yellow: allows the passage at full speed, but the next stop signal is set to 'line occupied' or switch to minor movements (Red White), or the signal does not "know" not the state of the next signal. The driver must drive as if the next stop signal is a red signal. Signal sncb 2J CCV.gif
Signal sncb R.svg or SNCB3F R.JPG Red: 'halt'.

If the signal is managed by a signal box, the driver cannot pass at danger without permission from the signal box. If the red signal is displayed on an automatic signal it warns for an occupied block section ahead or a level crossing that is experiencing technical difficulties. The driver will stop, write down the incident on his journey report and will proceed at sight.

Signal sncb R CCV.gif or SNCB3F R CCV.gif
Signal sncb VJH.svg Green-yellow horizontal: allows the passage at full speed, but the next signal requires a speed reduction. This speed may be indicated by number displayed on a yellow display at the top otherwise a black number on a white triangle can be affixed to the mast signal: it is the smallest speed that may be imposed by the next signal. If there is no indication, the driver considers that the imposed speed is 40 km/h (25 mph). Signal sncb VJH CCV.gif
Signal sncb VJV.svg Green-yellow vertical: allows the passage at full speed and warns of a short section: the distance between the signal following and that follows is shorter than the distance normally required to perform the action required . Signal sncb VJV CCV.gif
Signal sncb R+B.svg or SNCB3F RB.JPG Red and White: allows the passage under 'minor movement' (change the type of movement if it was major movement ). Signal sncb R+B CCV.gif or SNCB3F RB CCV.gif


Speed signs[edit]

Permanent Explanation Temporary
Panneau vitesse sncb annonce.svg Announcement sign: indicates a speed restriction ahead (in 10s of km/h). The train has to slow down to this speed. Panneau vitesse sncb annonce ART.svg
Panneau vitesse sncb origine.svg Origin sign: marks the beginning of a speed restricted zone. The number is the same as the announcement sign above. Sometimes the number is not present and a plain black circle is used instead. Panneau vitesse sncb origine ART.svg
Panneau vitesse sncb reprise1.svg
Panneau vitesse sncb reprise2.svg
End of zone sign: after passing this sign the train can accelerate to the speed indicated (in 10s of km/h).
  • The version shown above is used when the speed limit is less than the reference speed limit of the line.
  • The version shown below may be placed between an announcement sign and an origin sign to allow acceleration when another track with a lower speed limit joins the track that had the announcement sign.
Panneau vitesse sncb reprise1 ART.svg
Panneau vitesse sncb reprise2 ART.svg
Panneau vitesse sncb référence.svg Reference speed sign: after passing this sign the train can accelerate to the reference speed limit of the line, which is the speed indicated (in 10s of km/h). Panneau vitesse sncb référence ART.svg

Additional panels (special triangles, for example) are used to indicate that only certain types of trains are affected: e.g., "HKM" means the sign only concerns freight trains .

Some other signs[edit]

Image Explanation
Repère de ligne.svg 'Control reference line': indicate on what line it is headed.
Fin de caténaire.svg Catenary end sign: indicates the end of the zone powered by overhead wire. Electric trains must halt.
Baisser panto annonce.svg 'Expect lower pantograph': Warns of upcoming 'lower pantograph' signal.
Baisser panto exécution.svg 'Lower Pantograph'
Relever panto.svg 'Raise pantograph': end of zone in which pantograph(s) had to be lowered.

Other signals[edit]

A detonator

Other signals complement the fixed signs:

  • Mobile signals (light at night / low visibility, flag day) red, yellow and green;
  • Acoustic signals (detonators, horns);
  • Torch flame red lights flashing (requiring 'halt');

Cab signalling[edit]

A main stop sign

The TBL1+ system was designed in 2006 by the Belgian subsidiary of the Alstom Transport group. This is the new standard for Belgian signalling, supposed to be deployed on most lines equipped with conventional signalling. The signals are the same as classic ones, but they are combined with automatic train control and cab signalling.

The trigger for developing this system was the Pécrot disaster in March 2001 when two trains collided head-on because a driver had passed a red signal, highlighting the finding that the majority of lines, no system prevented the train from passing a stop signal.It was therefore decided to invest in such a system. At the time, however, the existing TBL1 system offered this feature of automatic stop at red lights, but only a few main lines were equipped (or approximately 13% of signals). NMBS/SNCB decided therefore to abandon this TBL1 system and modified to make it compatible with the new European ERTMS standard in terms of ground infrastructure, becoming the system TBL1+. Today, the TBL1+ system is undergoing testing and certification. It will be installed from 2008, the objective being to equip the entire network by 2013.

Status of introduction of TBL1+[3]

District Railway line Route section Junction
Centre 26 Huizingen
96 Ruisbroek - Lembeek All junctions
96 (track B) Bruxelles Midi - Forest All junctions
North East 29 Grid Tielen
North West 50 A Oostkamp-Beernem All junctions
50 A Switching zone Oostkamp
Switching zone Beernem
South East 124 Roux-Luttre All junctions
132 Yves-Gomezée


The TBL1+ system is a system of driving aids to repeat the signals aspects in the cab, and to intervene if the driver does not comply with the directions given by these signals. Unlike systems such as ERTMS TBL2 which supervise a speed curve, the TBL1+ system does only a spot-check when passing light signals. This is done with a beacon placed in the track, which transmits to the onboard computer a message containing the signal aspect. We can classify the appearance of a signal into three broad categories:

Clear aspect[edit]

This aspect indicates that the track is clear and allows the train to run at maximum speed allowed. This is typically a green signal. When the train passes a signal as the TBL1+ system simply repeats information and makes a short sound in his cab (the lamps used to indicate a possible restriction are also extinct).

Restrictive aspects[edit]

This type of aspect requires the driver to slow, for example, because the next signal shows a non-clear aspect (double yellow) or imposes a speed limit (yellow-green horizontal). When the train passes a signal as the driver must confirm that he saw the signal by pushing a button, otherwise the system will apply the emergency brake. In addition, a yellow lamp is lit in the cabin to remind the driver that runs under a restrictive regime.

Stop aspect[edit]

This type of aspect (typically a red signal) instructs the driver to halt and can not be passed by a train (except with a special procedure). If the train passes a signal showing a stop aspect, the TBL1+ system immediately applies the emergency brake and flashes a red light in the cab, forcing the train to stop completely and as quickly as possible. Although TBL1+ does not control the speed curve, the system does include a reduced speed control. In this mode, indicated by the "V <40" LED display, the train speed can not exceed 40 km/h (25 mph), otherwise the emergency brake is applied. This mode is used for shunting, and also the approach of a stop signal, so as to operate an advance emergency braking if the train passes a warning signal at a too high speed. Switching to this mode can be done manually by the driver or automatically using the beacon on the ground.

Ground equipment[edit]

In both TBL1 or TBL2 the aspect of the signal is transmitted to the train through beacons placed in the right way for this signal using an encoder to translate the appearance of this signal into computer message (i.e. a sequence of bits). The big difference with the previous systems is the fact that the TBL1+ beacons are identical to those used for lines equipped with ERTMS, while the message is compatible with the standard set by ERTMS UNISIG. Therefore, it is quite possible to migrate a line equipped TBL1+ to ERTMS, or even superimpose the two systems without having to change the ground beacons. The TBL1+ system is also compatible with the old system MEMOR, which used "crocodiles" placed on the tracks to transmit the signal aspect, through a positive or negative pulse. When a line is not equipped with TBL1+ beacons, the system uses information provided by crocodiles on the ground, under the limits of MEMOR functionality. In particular, the automatic stop at a stop signal is no longer possible because crocodiles can not convey the aspect of a signal.

On board equipment[edit]

The TBL1+ interface between the driver and the onboard computer consists only of lights and buttons. Here are the main ones:

The alert button is used to acknowledge the passing of a restrictive signal. It also helps to release the emergency brake when equipment TBL1+ train stopped. The yellow light flashes when the train passes a signal showing restrictive aspects to request acknowledgement from the driver, and then remains lit until the train has not met unrestricted signal (but it may be turned off by pressingon this indicator). The red light flashes when the emergency brake is triggered after the train passes a stop signal, and then remains lit until the train comes to the next signal showing 'track clear'. (it can however be switched off by pressing the light). "V <40" and "V> 40" displays indicate whether the TBL1+ system is in "control of low speed" or not. The manual shift mode to another is done by pressing the corresponding LED. The button permits temporary disablement of the system, following a strict procedure, temporarily disabling the system to pass signals in such trouble. The onboard computer is connected to an antenna to read ERTMS tags placed in the path, and a brush-crocodile to capture the information transmitted by crocodiles in the track. A recorder is also on board the train to keep track of signals encountered and the actions of the driver.

Other cab signalling systems[edit]

TVM 430 on the line 1

TBL2 on the Line 2 and

ETCS levels 1 and 2 on the line 3 and Line 4.

References[edit] guide to signals (in french) guide to signals (in french)

  • HLT Booklet of the NMBS/SNCB (Rules for train drivers)
  • Rétiveau, R. (1987). Signalisation Ferroviaire. Paris: Presses de l'Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées. ISBN 978-2-85978-102-6. 
  • "Signalisation SNCB". Trans-fer (GTF Editions) 119 (April 2001). 
  1. ^ Exceptionally the Montzen - Aix-la-Chapelle line uses right hand operation: the normal regime signals are located on the right, and the counter-flow track regime signals are on the left.
  2. ^ On high speed lines, there are minor stop signs raised (on a post)
  3. ^

See also[edit]

Cab view video Forest to Lille with signals explained