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NR seeks ‘true long-term partner’ for ECML digital railway roll-out

Network Rail has launched the first stage of its procurement process to find a partner to deliver the first inter-city digital railway on the East Coast Main Line (ECML).

In what has been described as “an entirely new way of working,” its London North Eastern and East Midlands (LNE & EM) route is looking for a technology provider to work together on designs, plans, phasing and costs on a whole-life basis.

The chosen supplier will play a vital role in the development and deployment of the European Train Control System (ETCS) in what will be the first inter-city introduction of modern signalling.

The last significant upgrade to the train control system in this section of the railway was during the 1970s, and it will need to be renewed over the coming control periods. Many of the new trains now operating or soon to be in service will also be fitted with digital in-cab signalling technology.

Rob McIntosh, route managing director for the LNE & EM route, said: “This is an extraordinary and exciting opportunity that will have a significant and sustained impact on the future of the railway and the economies and communities we serve.

“We are establishing a route transformation that will bring track and train closer together through the deployment of digital technologies.”

McIntosh added that Network Rail is seeking a partner “in the truest sense of the word” by moving away from traditional input-based procurement towards a long-term relationship “based on industry outcomes.”

Toufic Machnouk, route programme director for the LNE & EM route, added: “We are setting a standard for how digital railway is deployed and a new generation of partnerships are established.”

David Waboso, managing director of Group Digital Railway, who wrote about digital railway in RTM’s June/July issue, said: “There is a compelling case for a digital transformation on this southern section of the ECML. The big challenge of digital railway is the integration of the infrastructure and rolling stock, and with the need for asset renewal coming at the same time as 70% of passenger trains being fitted, we are presented with a huge opportunity to align track and train in an efficient way.

“The procurement is being done in a radically different way and which will build on the key learnings from our Early Contractor Involvement programme. We seek a long-term relationship based on genuine partnership, extending for the whole of the asset life.”

The introduction of ETCS in the ECML will be the first major transformation programme as art of the digital strategy launched by the transport secretary in May.


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