Hitachi granted ETCS deployment approval by ORR in industry first
In an industry first, Hitachi has been given approval by the ORR to use its modern in-cab signalling system on UK passenger services, marking an important milestone in the nationwide Digital Railway programme.
The company recently successfully ran a British Class 37 loco controlled by ETCS technology along the Cambrian Line in Wales in partnership with Network Rail, which it argued helped it become the first UK train manufacturer to be authorised to use its digital signalling on passenger services.
After being granted authorisation from the regulator, Hitachi will now install its ETCS in over 160 new trains currently being built, the first of which will be the Class 800/801s – which enter passenger service next year on the Great Western Main Line.
Andy Rogers, Hitachi Rail Europe’s project director, said: “This is big step forward for digital innovation on the UK rail network and, once implemented, can deliver revolutionary benefits for rail passengers. Hitachi is hugely proud to be the first to achieve this milestone, which is a testament to the hard work of our testing and signalling teams.
“Our thanks go to Network Rail for its role in achieving this milestone and we look forward to working with them to implement ETCS across the network.”
Rather than using the old Victorian signalling system, which “operates like traffic lights”, Hitachi’s ETCs tells the driver when to accelerate and brake or about upcoming hazards. The information is fed directly to the train cab and is drawn from the track-side system that monitors every train’s movement and position on the railway, making a far more efficient way of managing the network.
Hitachi was also awarded the traffic management contract for Thameslink last year, which will complement the new ATO over ETCS in-cab signalling system to ensure the core between St Pancras and Blackfriars can handle more trains more reliably.
Although it is a key player in the national digital railway vision, Hitachi recently voiced a series of concerns around the project. In an evidence submission to the Transport Committee, it argued changes to Network Rail’s EDP following the Hendy Review mean than phase 1 milestones are likely being pushed to CP6 – “inevitably” creating uncertainty around the entire delivery of the Digital Railway. It also added that the current plan “lacks the pace, prioritisation and scope needed to meet passenger and freight growth”.
But the programme has recently taken on a new managing director, David Waboso, who has already warned against an “over-heroic” approach to digital signalling and has guaranteed the project will be taken forward at a cautious pace and scale – highlighted by his recent decision to revise the first Digital Railway pilot.
(Top image: Hitachi's Tranista traffic management system, used to manage Thameslink)
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