Rail signalling

£1 billion technological innovations to drive the rail sector forward

The Government will invest more than £1bn in funding to be used for the replacement of outdated Victorian infrastructure across the East Coast Main Line with the cutting-edge digital signalling technology available today.

The line represents one of the busiest rail routes that exists within the UK sector, due to the estimates of around one third of the nation’s population living within a 20-minute distance of the line. The sheer number of passenger usage sees the production of more than 40% of the UK’s GDP, showing the vital role the line is to the UK’s economic prosperity.

The rollout of this technology will see its implementation in the entire southern section of the line, situated from London’s King’s Cross to Stoke Tunnels. This will aid in the faster, safer and more regular transport for millions of people.

Tom Moran, Thameslink and Great Northern Managing Director, said:

“We're delighted with this announcement, which will mean better services in the future for our passengers on the East Coast Mainline. This massive investment builds on our work to implement digital signalling on the Northern City Line into Moorgate in the City of London, and it means we can continue to roll out the technology on some of our key routes."

Coming just a week after the UK rail network was brought to a standstill after the union leaders enacted the largest strike in the sectors modern history, this project signifies an opportunity for the industry to take a leap forward in operational standards. This will come from the fundings implementation, such as the removal of outdated lineside signalling and replacing them with the European Train Control System (ETCS). This new system will bring signalling into the train drivers’ cabs and provide them with real time, continuous information to update their journeys.

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps said:

“While union bosses waste time touring television studios and standing on picket lines, I am busy getting on with the job at hand and modernising our railway.

“This £1 billion investment will allow us to replace unreliable Victorian infrastructure with cutting edge technology which will mean fewer delays and more regular services for millions of passengers.

“The world is changing, and despite the best efforts of unions, I am determined to help our railway change with it.”

Implementing the ETCS system will allow for a resilient and responsive railway that adjust can adjust their journeys efficiently in real time, enabling quicker recovery for passenger journey stability. This system will also continuously monitor train speeds throughout their route passage, creating a safer rail network.

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

“We are delighted to have been given the go ahead for this ground-breaking programme that will transform the capability and resilience of the East Coast Main Line and be a key enabler for the wider network.

“The ECDP is uniquely bringing together all elements of track and train through a pioneering industry partnership that is working beyond boundaries in a deep collaboration. We will upskill our people and use new technology to improve the way we work for the benefit of passengers and freight customers.”

Whilst the plethora of passenger travel benefits are at the forefront of the East Coast Digital Programme, another major benefit can be seen in the financial support for the industry. Estimations show that over the course of its lifetime, this system will allow for massive savings, as it will be 42% cheaper than current operations. The Government investment will also see major steps towards the plan to achieve carbon net zero by decreasing carbon emissions by 55,000 tonnes, which equates to more than 65,000 one-way flights from London to New York.

Environmental benefits will come from the improved capabilities of freight haulage that will stem from the investment. The implementation of improved signalling will help to maximise the lines capacity, allowing for passenger travel and freight passage to flourish. Carbon net zero is at the forefront of current Government planning, so enabling the freight industry to transition to rail through more availability along the lines will support these decarbonisation goals.

Maggie Simpson OBE, Director General, Rail Freight Group, said:

“Freight customers throughout supply chains are dependent on reliable rail services to deliver goods to people. We welcome this investment in digital signalling that will provide a more flexible and resilient railway, unlocking future growth potential in rail freight traffic supporting both decarbonisation and economic growth.”

Prior to the East Coast Digital Programme, £350m of investments have supplied other services along this route with the new technology, where currently over 80% of passenger rolling stock are already utilising the ETCS. Further investment of £427m has been prioritised by Network Rail for the upcoming Control Period settlement, which will bring overall investment costs to just below the £2bn mark.

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