ETCS Level 2 test train

ETCS comes to intercity mainline in UK rail first

A digitally signalled train has successfully run on an intercity mainline route, the first to do so on the UK rail network.

On Sunday morning, a Great Northern Class 717 ran in test conditions between Welwyn Garden City and Hitchin using European Train Control System (ETCS), sending signalling information direct to a screen in the driver’s cab.

The test was part of a rail industry partnership to deliver the East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP). Siemens Mobility is overseeing the test process alongside the relevant train operators. Govia Thameslink Railway was the operator for Sunday’s test.

Oliver Turner, Head of ERTMS at Govia Thameslink Railway which operates Great Northern, said: “We’re proud our Class 717 train and ERTMS team were instrumental to this landmark use of digital signalling on the East Coast Main Line.

“This weekend’s testing marks the very first step in an intensive testing process to ensure the system is safe.”

“We are working closely with the rest of the industry to share the lessons we’ve learned – and continue to learn – from introducing and operating ETCS on the Northern City Line and Thameslink route across the heart of London.”

Ben Lane, Project Director for Siemens Mobility & Infrastructure Sector Lead ECDP, said: “Following on from the success of the pathfinder project on the Northern City line, we are now deploying this technology on an intercity mainline in preparation for the commencement of driver training for all passenger and freight operating companies on the Programme.

“The first digitally signalled train movement on the Welwyn to Hitchin project is not only a big step for the ECDP, but also for the wider railway industry and future digital schemes.”

Sunday’s test was part of the early stages of the process to prove that the trains, already fitted with the necessary on-board technology, work with the new signalling infrastructure on the East Coast Main Line.

The testing process is expected to continue until mid-2025, with the first passenger and freight services to start soon afterwards.

Image credit: Govia Thameslink Railway

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