Commuters into the City of London are benefitting from new cutting-edge signalling says Network Rail.
A more reliable and sustainable service will be achieved through new digital in-cab signalling for Great Northern commuters as part of the East Coast Digital Programme. The programme is funded through £1.4 billion of government investment that aims to improve journeys along the East Coast Mainline, from London to north of Peterborough.
London’s Northern City Line, between Finsbury Park and Moorgate, saw the running of the first digitally signalled passenger train, with Govia Thameslink Railway, Network Rail and Siemens Mobility switching the system on. This marked a milestone for the programme, as it is the first stage of introducing digital ECTS (European Train Control System) to an intercity mainline in Britain.
The system works by setting drivers a target speed that is set by the system in their cab, with this being continually updated as per the location of other trains by beacons along the track. This lets drivers know what is ahead further in advance than line-of-sight signals and allows services to run more efficiently.
Principle Programme Sponsor for the East Coast Digital Programme, Ed Akers, said:
“Today is a huge step forward towards a digital future where traditional ‘lights on sticks’ are removed and technology delivers a more reliable and punctual railway. On the Northern City Line, our cross-industry partnership has learned by doing, and the experience we’ve all gained will help us progress digital transformation on the main line and beyond.”
As time goes on, more trains will begin operating with digital signalling as their drivers become trained in using the technology. Despite this, traditional signals will remain at the side of the track until all drivers are trained on the new system and the former one can be disabled.
Ben Lane, ECDP Project Director for Siemens Mobility, also commented:
“This is a major milestone for the rail industry and I’m proud that Siemens Mobility has brought the technology and experience to help deliver in collaboration with programme partners. Certain to transform the everyday for passengers, economies and communities along the route, this milestone demonstrates we’re on the right track to bringing innovative digital signalling to the East Coast Main Line and beyond.”
Oliver Turner, Head of ERTMS for GTR said: “I’m delighted for our team and I’m delighted for our passengers. Getting to this point has been a monumental cross-industry effort. It will pave the way for the wider rollout of digital signalling on the East Coast Main Line, promising better reliability for everybody.”
The next stage of the programme will see digital signalling implemented between Welwyn Garden City and Hitchin, with digitally signalled trains expected to begin operating on that section of the route by the end of 2025.