Rail Industry Focus


The most complex signalling phase in Britain

Source: RTM Feb/Mar 17

RTM caught up with Richard Scott, programme manager at Network Rail, about the recent successful delivery of the Cardiff Area Signalling Renewals (CASR) project, which has been branded the biggest and most complex signalling phase delivered to date.

Over the festive period this year, Network Rail’s ‘orange army’ worked tirelessly to deliver the biggest and most complex signalling commissioning phase in its history. 

Taking to the tracks on Christmas Eve, hundreds of its engineers worked both day and night in the bitter Welsh winter to completely remodel the approach to Cardiff East and open the new platform 8 at Cardiff Central, marking the final phase of the area’s major £300m signalling renewals project. 

One of the team members, 25-year-old Zoe O’Brien who joined Network Rail Wales in 2013 as a project management graduate, described Christmas Eve as “the start of a marathon” for her and her colleagues – but argued that the feeling of achievement on completing the upgrade work made it worthwhile. During the 10 days’ worth of works, the team managed to deliver a host of improvements across signalling and P&D, track, stations, civils and telecoms. 

Across signalling, the infrastructure owner commissioned 264 signalling equivalent units back to the Wales ROC and completed one of the largest data changes ever undertaken, during which 92 packages of data were updated. It introduced full bi-directional capacity on all platforms at Cardiff Central; commissioned a fully diverse signalling power system including the installation of almost 17km of new power cable; commissioned a brand-new signalling system comprising of four new Westlock interlockings; and introduced 10 new crossovers, amongst other upgrades. 

Works also included the re-modelling of the eastern throat of Cardiff Central, including the full relaying of 1,250m of plain line and 74 timber changes across seven point ends. 

In more visible upgrades for passengers and passersby, the team also opened the station’s new platform 8, located above the south-side entrance building, which includes an Arriva Trains Wales staff office, lift, staircase, waiting rooms and toilets. The new platform will now enable trains to depart westwards from platforms 7 and 8 simultaneously and ease overall congestion.

With regards to civils and telecoms, almost 35 signalling structures were recovered, an under-track crossing was installed and substantial amounts of vegetation were cleared. Hundreds of new telecoms circuits were commissioned for the new signalling system and significant changes were made to the GSM-R. 

Andy Thomas, Wales route managing director, said these milestones formed the cornerstone of the infrastructure owner’s overall upgrade plan and would unlock the potential to run 16 trains per hour, rather than 12, into the heart of the capital city “should fleet be made available in the future”. It also helped boost operational resilience and their capacity to recover should incidents arise. 

RTM caught up with Richard Scott, programme manager at Network Rail who has been involved with the project since 2012, in a Q&A to learn more. 

RTM: What was the biggest challenge of delivering the project? 

RS: Integrating the workload of multiple contractors (including several Network Rail internal departments) to ensure that all preparatory works were completed in time to allow system soak testing.  

RTM: What part of the project is Network Rail most proud of, or considers to be its biggest achievement for the area? 

RS: Consistently delivering stagework after major stagework over the previous two years alongside all the normal day-to-day activities. 

RTM: How did Network Rail apply learning from previous signalling projects to ensure the Cardiff renewals ran smoothly? 

RS: Network Rail’s delivering work within possessions standard and associated systems have been built around learning from previous projects. Rigorous adherence to T-minus reviews, multiple peer reviews and lessons learnt workshops held within an atmosphere that encourages behaviours that challenge and test understanding.  

RTM: How does the work completed at Cardiff Central tie into the overall signalling renewal work? 

RS: These works replace life-expired signalling equipment that in many areas was over 50 years old. The works provided passive provision to allow for future electrification of lines through Cardiff. 

RTM: Does the work tie into broader Digital Railway aspirations? 

Whilst the signalling system commissioned as part of the CASR project was not specifically linked into the broader Digital Railway aspirations, the majority of installed kit is ‘digital-ready’, such as interlockings, modernisation from track circuits to axle counters, control systems, trackworks (including rationalisation of the layout at Cardiff East) and telecoms subsystems. 

RTM: What major differences will be felt by passengers as a direct result of the project completion? 

Passengers now have use of an additional platform, new crossovers that permit Down main line trains to turn round in the low numbered platforms, full bi-directional signalling on all platforms, automatic route setting, and high-speed crossovers to the east of the fully rationalised throat into Cardiff Central station. 

In practice this all translates to less trains waiting outside Cardiff Central for platform availability, higher approach speeds into the station throat and quicker route setting, as well as multiple departure routes from platforms, significantly quicker recovery times after perturbation primarily due to the introduction of bi-directional signalling, and modern, computer-based control systems.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected] 


Andrew Gwilt   23/03/2017 at 09:36

I like how Network Rail are still improving our railways. Keep up with the good work with your Orange Army workers.

Richard Scott (Programme Controls Manager)   28/03/2017 at 13:08

Hi, I'd just like to clarify that I am a programme controls manager, rather than a programme manager as indicated in the article. Richard Scott - Network Rail - IP Signalling Wales

Pedr Jarvis   28/03/2017 at 13:37

Good effort. Well done. Now, how long before electrification?

Pwt   28/03/2017 at 15:35

An awful lot of name dropping on behalf of Network Rail but how about giving a shout out to all those Atkins engineers who worked tirelessly to deliver this project?

Keith Morey   31/03/2017 at 12:14

Must say thanks not only to the Atkins testers & operatives who worked over the period but also the installers of Siemens who worked on the Telecoms, Balfour Beatty who supplied the track gangs and Civil engineering gangs as well as Works Delivery Wales who were also involved. We also need to praise the Agencies like Ngage, Vital. McGinleys & Coyles who provided staff along with other smaller suppliers. Network Rail might have been Principal Contractor but it took everybody working together over the 10 days to achieve this huge milestone.

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