Track and signalling

10.09.18

Progress on ECML slowed due to trackside equipment faults

Progress to introduce the new Class 800/801 Hitachi Azuma trains on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) has been slowed due to problems arising with the trackside equipment.

In a statement from Network Rail, electromagnetic emissions from the new Azuma IEP trains are interfering with existing safety critical systems — meaning the trains cannot demonstrate that they will run safely on the line.

The emissions impact the trackside equipment that instructs signals and points to the oncoming trains. The BBC reported that the older system used on the line north of York fails to operate correctly when operated on electric power.

The safety issues mean that the bi-mode trains can only run on diesel, heavily impacting the vehicle’s speed.

Network Rail told the BBC it was cooperating with Hitachi to rectify the issue, however they noted it was too early to identify an answer to the issues.

A Network Rail spokesperson said: “It is Hitachi’s responsibility to demonstrate that the IEP trains can run safely on the East Coast Main Line, accordingly we believe that this issue should therefore be fixed on the train. However, in the interests of finding a practical solution to ensure passengers benefit from the new trains, Network Rail is looking at mitigation to line side infrastructure – alongside further modifications to the trains – which will be subject to further testing by Hitachi to demonstrate compatibility. 

“We are committed to delivering improved passenger services and the new trains continue to be tested on the East Coast Main Line,” the statement added.

A Hitachi spokesperson said: “There are a number of 30-year old signalling systems on the East Coast main line which require modifying to operate with modern electric trains – which has been confirmed by an independent report.

"Network Rail is planning to carry out this modification work before the Azuma trains enter into passenger service. This is the same issue encountered 15 years ago when the Pendolino was introduced on the West Coast Mainline. Whilst testing started over 12 months ago, this issue has been identified by Network Rail only recently during multi-train testing. Hitachi is working hard to support Network Rail to overcome this interface issue."

David Horne, managing director of the newly-created London North Eastern Railway (LNER) who will operate on the line, wrote about the first few months for the company and what is coming up for the newest train operator in the latest edition of Rail Technology Magazine.

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Image credit: Simon, Crest Photography

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