Awards, contracts & appointments

22.06.20

£350m investment for Britain’s first mainline digital railway

The East Coast Main Line will become Britain’s first mainline digital rail link with £350m of new investment to install state-of-the-art electronic signalling designed to cut journey times and prevent delays.

This significant investment, added on top of £1.2 billion already earmarked to upgrade one of the country’s most significant rail lines, will fund the replacement of conventional signalling with a digital system that allows trains to talk to the track.

The new technology will allow signallers to know exactly where each train is at every minute of every journey.

The East Coast Main Line is a mixed-use railway, with trains of different sizes and speeds, both passenger and freight, all using the same tracks.

This smart signalling identifies these different trains, allowing train and track to talk to each other continuously in real-time.

This ‘in-cab’ system will mean an end to conventional signalling at the side of tracks, first used in the Victorian era.

This will smooth the flow of trains, make journeys safer and reduce signal failure that every year result in thousands of hours of delays.

The upgrading of the line is just one element of the Government’s plan for a 21st Century rail network that will help spread prosperity to all parts of the country.

A third of the United Kingdom’s population live within 20 minutes reach of an East Coast Mainline station and together they produce 41% of GDP.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has brought forward the roll-out of digital signalling to speed up Britain’s economic recovery as the country recovers from the Covid-19 outbreak.

This forms part of a wider national plan aimed at introducing digital signalling on to the entire rail network in Great Britain.

Shapps said: “As the country recovers from Covid-19 we want to speed up our economy and reap the benefits of new transport technology. The Victorians gave us the world’s first great rail network and now it’s our turn to be modern transport pioneers and build on that great tradition.

“Upgrading this country’s conventional signalling system, and giving drivers technology fit for the 21st century, will boost train performance, cut delays, improve safety and support the supply chain.

“This is just the beginning. In time, we will digitise signalling right across the country to make good on our promise of better reliability and punctuality for passengers.

“Passengers shouldn’t have to worry about missing connections or being late home to see their children, and I’ve been clear that getting the trains to run on time is a personal priority.”

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