Digital Railway moves forward as Hitachi begins ETCS testing of Class 800s
The Digital Railway programme has hit a major milestone as Hitachi Rail Europe began testing digital technology on its Intercity Express Programme (IEP) trains, set to enter passenger services on the Great Western route from next year.
The intercity trains are fitted with digital signalling designed to boost capacity and relieve overcrowding as part of the DfT’s ambitious Digital Railway programme. A Class 800 train (800 802) has now entered testing stage at Network Rail’s signalling facility ENIF, in Hitchin.
These digital signalling systems were created to feed more continuous information from trackside equipment into the driver’s cab, which in turns allows trains to run closer together and enables more regular services. ETCS, the digital system being tested by Hitachi, will also inform drivers about how to change their speed, as well as about potential hazards ahead of them.
In a statement, Hitachi explained the intricacy of ETCs is measured in ‘Baselines’: the higher the Baseline, the more advanced the system is. At ENIF, the company is using its advanced Baseline 3 ETCS inside the driver’s cab, which it says is an improvement “on the more common Baseline 2 version”.
“Hitachi’s Baseline 3 ETCS offers enhanced performance on commuter and intercity routes, often the most congested and complex routes on the rail network,” the company said. “All versions of ETCS are a far cry from the long standing signalling system currently used on the country’s rail network, which operates like traffic lights.”
The IEP trains will still carry out further tests at the Network Rail facility to ensure they are ready to use ETCS. While Hitachi’s Baseline 2 system already received regulatory approval to run on passenger services, further tests are still required for Baseline 3.
Andy Rogers, projects director at Hitachi Rail Europe, said: “Only by linking new trains to new signalling systems can rail delays and cancellations truly be cut in a meaningful way. Testing of new signalling technology on our Intercity trains is another step forward to realising our goal of transforming the UK rail network.
“We’ve ensured our new Intercity trains include the latest in signalling technology to maximise their long term potential. Our Intercity trains will offer millions of passengers more seats, more space and modern technology. By introducing these new trains, Hitachi is bringing Intercity travel firmly into the 21st century.”
The IEP fleet, consisted of Class 800 and 801 trains, are due for passenger operation on the Great Western Main Line from 2017 and on the East Coast Main Line from the following year.
Although Hitachi is a key player in the national digital railway vision, it recently voiced a series of concerns around the project. In an evidence submission to the Transport Committee, the company argued changes to Network Rail’s EDP following the Hendy Review meant that phase 1 milestone for the Digital Railway programme are likely being pushed to CP6 – “inevitably” creating uncertainty around the entire project’s delivery.
The company it also set to write for the next edition of RTM (December/January) about Digital Railway and its latest developments with ETCS.