Rail freight

20.12.17

Network Rail awards landmark £150m ETCS signalling contract

Network Rail has awarded a landmark contract for the installation of the European Train Control System (ETCS) in-cab signalling system to Siemens.

The system will be installed on Britain’s freight fleet, and will ultimately equip around 750 vehicles.

The technology, which forms part of the country’s Digital Railway Programme, will improve the safety of freight trains, make better use of the network and provide greater flexibility in the timetable.

Network Rail has said that the upgrade will mean that freight trains will eventually have improved operational performance on a mixed traffic network.

Chippenam-based Siemens Rail won the multimillion pound contract, and will initially focus on the heaviest types of locomotives. Learning from the initial stage will then be used to inform the wider potential fleet roll-out from 2022 onwards.

The initial phase is expected to become one of the world’s biggest ETCS retro-fit programmes, with the contract worth up to £150m.

Siemens will install the Trainguard 200 ETCS on-board solution on freight locomotives operating across Britain. Its Trainguard Level 2, Baseline 3 system will be installed to align with Network Rail’s proposals for deploying ETCS to the rail network.

Network Rail said that upgrading the network’s signalling on-train systems will allow more trains to run on existing tracks, reduce crowding, provide better connections, and improve performance and passenger safety.

The system will ensure that the trains always operate within safe limits and speeds, providing safe movement authority directly and continuously to the driver through a display.

Whilst the driver will be able to operate the train, should the ETCS distance or speed limit be exceeded, or be at risk of being exceeded, the system will intervene to control the train, bringing it to a stand where necessary.

Freight trains are at the forefront of the fitting, as they travel across the entire country, passing route boundaries and interacting with various types of train traffic and signals.

The contract will see Siemens work alongside Network Rail and the six freight operating companies.

The design, testing and approvals stage for each class of vehicle will begin immediately, and work to retrofit the fleet will begin in 2022, continuing until CP7, providing around 150 skilled engineering jobs across the UK.

Network Rail estimates that around 24,000 drivers will require additional training on the new technology.

Chris Grayling, transport secretary, said: “We are making the biggest investment in the railways since Victorian times and this includes £450m for integrating digital technology on our railways.

“This technology has huge potential to improve journeys for passengers and to boost our freight industry by cutting delays and increasing the number of services.

“Today is an important step towards our future as a digital railway that is fit for the 21st century.”

Digital Rail’s managing director, David Waboso, added: “This is another hugely important milestone for digital rail technology on the railway, following the Crossrail and Thameslink deployments.

“It is a key enabler for a modern network and we have to address these go-anywhere vehicles first.

“It will support our future deployment of infrastructure with no line-side signals, more capacity and increased safety.”

Paul McMahon, Network Rail’s freight managing director, also said that the scheme would assure “long-term competitiveness through increased performance and is a key part of a cohesive portfolio of freight investment for CP6 and beyond.”

And Rob Morris, managing director of Siemens Rail Automation in the UK commented that the company was “delighted” to work on the project.

He added: “This solution will allow the freight operating companies to continue to safely deliver a reliable service as ETCS technology continues to be rolled-out across the UK.”

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Comments

Ian Watkins   20/12/2017 at 14:20

How long before trains don't need drivers?

Frankh   21/12/2017 at 22:47

Seems like freight is being used as a guinea pig to trial ECTS nationwide. At only 750 vehicles it has to be the cheapest way regardless of the comments above.

John Grant   22/12/2017 at 15:09

@Ian: longer than for cars, at the current rate of progress. On the other hand, in the Thameslink core within a couple of years the driver won't actually do anything. (Even the doors will be automatic.) @Frankh: or maybe it's as stated in the article, they don't want to get to a situation where they upgrade a passenger route but have to keep the old system for goods trains.

Jerry Alderson   23/12/2017 at 20:15

There are already freight trains operating that do not have any on-board people. It tends to be sparsely populated countries though. At least half of new metro systems being built now will have on on-board operations staff i.e. the will be GoA4. Thameslink. mentioned by John Grant, is interesting in that it is a hybrid solution. Because it will still has a person in a cab I think it will be classed as GoA2, like the Victoria line has been since it opened in the late 1960s.

ICN   27/12/2017 at 10:13

I think people should avoid getting carried away here. ETCS is a European standard train protection system with (in levels 2 & 3) cab signalling functionality. ETCS on its own has no train control functionality. Train control (the ability to control traction and braking) is provided by a separate ATO system and in the case of the Thameslink Corridor, working with the safety envelope created by ETCS.

Adian N   02/01/2018 at 13:43

I'm a bit late to see this. An interesting article but ambiguous. It doesn't tell us what the UK tax payer actually gets for £150million. What the press release doesn't explicitly say is "this is the price for ETCS designed, installed and ready-to-use in 750 freight locos"?

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