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World’s rail leaders stream to London to see how signalling upgrades achieved

London Underground’s (LU's) Highgate Control Centre has been experiencing a “constant stream” of international visitors keen to see how the Northern Line was resignalled without passenger disruption.

LU head of automatic train control Andy Bourne, who had a key role on the successful three-year project to replace the ancient old signals with the modern SelTrac TBTC (transmission-based train control) system, which finished six months early and under budget last year, told RTM that many metro systems across Europe and North America especially are considering similar upgrades.

He said: “A lot of those existing metros are coming to the point where they’re having to replace systems that they might have put in 40 years ago. So, they’re not as old as the Underground, but they are hitting for the first time that point of having to renew things on the infrastructure while keeping the railway working.

“There’s a lot of interest in how we’ve managed to do that here. London, particularly post-Olympics, has become a place that people want to come and visit.

“Highgate Control Centre has seen a pretty constant stream of people from just about everywhere, to look and see what we’ve been doing.”

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LU and contractor Thales won the UK Rail Industry Award for Signalling & Telecoms in February 2015 for the Northern Line upgrade, which took the lessons from the troubled Jubilee Line upgrade and achieved something fantastic.

LU’s Stuart Harvey is now the programme director for the Sub-Surface Upgrade Programme, but before that held a number of senior Tube Lines and LU roles working on the Jubilee and Northern upgrades.

Speaking of the Northern Line success, he said: “It was the unthinkable dream, an unimaginable dream. People might think we must have set ourselves a conservative programme or conservative price, but we really didn’t.”

Thales’ programme director Andy Bell said: “We’re hugely proud to have been part of the successful Northern Line upgrade. It’s been a challenging project, but I think the results speak for themselves. The project was delivered six months early, significantly under budget, and the performance of the railway has been excellent – since it’s gone live, it’s exceeded all expectations and is top of the performance charts in terms of reliability.”

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The full story of how they did it is in the April/May 2015 edition of RTM, including interviews with all the key players involved at LU and Thales.

Bourne also told us more about the work going on preparing for the next Northern Line upgrade, NLU2, which could see a complete separation of the line into two to achieve 30 or even 36 trains per hour frequencies. That long-held dream of LU, stymied before by the necessity for extensive remodelling of Camden Town, is closer than ever to coming to fruition.

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


Nonsuchmike   24/04/2015 at 13:04

Congratulations to Thales, LU and the Northern Line Management team, but mostly the men-in-the-tunnels who worked hard and achieved this over three years.Where teams provide excellent service on our railways as in this case they deserve nationwide recognition and praise.

Pete Ashford   24/04/2015 at 21:00

Yes I agree, the Chaps down the Tunnel [at the coal face so to speak] deserve a mention in dispatches. They turn plans on paper in to reality, a bit like "D" day, without the whole team performing it doesn't work. Well done Chaps

Bren BRMF   27/04/2015 at 00:42

Whilst they have done a good job of doing this the "keen to see how the Northern Line was resignalled without passenger disruption" is a bit of a stretch. If line closures, late starts / early shutdowns and such arent passenger disruption then what is ....

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