Digital Signalling

New digital signalling used in Northern City Line

A new digital signalling method is currently being trialled on the Northern City Line with the running of the first Great Northern train between Finsbury Park and Moorgate under the new system.

The testing for this new system is being conducted with a Great Northern Class 717 train and marks an important milestone in the Government funded East Coast Digital Programme, which will ultimately see traditional signals removed from the tracks along this route. The testing phase began in the early hours of Sunday 29th May

Digital signalling represents a once in a generation innovation within the industry as it can aid in reduction of delays, thus allowing a more reliable service for passengers. As the rail industry is still recovering from the pandemic punch, it is vital to maximise the passenger services and overall capacity on the lines.

An ongoing intensive period of testing will ensure that the train fleet, already fitted with the necessary technology, works well with the new digital signalling infrastructure that will communicate directly with the trains cab.

The testing itself is being conducted overnight and throughout the weekend, in order to ensure minimal disruptions to passenger journeys and persevere through 2022. This prolonged testing period will ensure complete assurance of its safety and reliability, with driver training and migration to digital signalling operations due to commence in early 2023. If successful, the Northern City Line will proceed to exclusively operate utilising digital signalling in 2024.

Toufic Machnouk, Network Rail’s Director, Industry Partnership for Digital Railway, said:  

“The running of the first Northern City Line train in digital signalling as part of the test campaign is a big moment for the East Coast Digital Programme, this is the first step to migration following the successful upgrade of the system earlier in May which will change the way the railway works to deliver a more reliable service.

“We are working in close partnership with Great Northern and Siemens to deliver the extensive testing required to ensure we can proceed to the next stage of transforming this route into the capital.”

Oly Turner, Head of ERTMS at Govia Thameslink Railway which operates Great Northern, said:

“We’re thrilled with this landmark use of digital signalling along our route to Moorgate. Working with Network Rail and Siemens, we prepped carefully for this day, and it was rewarding to see the train perform well. I’m looking forward to proving the system in time for driver training to begin next year.”  

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