The Digital Railway: ETCS to be Installed on East Coast Main Line

Great Britain: Rail infrastructure owner and manager Network Rail has announced it is looking for a train control partner to help push forward the digital railway. It has said it wishes to find a supplier with whom to team up on a whole-life basis to bring about the first large-scale intercity digital railway on the London North Eastern and East Midlands route, which runs between London and the Scottish Borders and whose primary operators are the East Coast Main Line and Midland Main Line.

Bringing the Digital Railway to Great Britain with ETCS
Digital Railway Strategy: ETCS © Network Rail

The supplier Network Rail will choose will be instrumental in developing and rolling out ETCS (the European Train Control System) along the East Coast Main Line, starting from London. This modern in-cab signalling system will increase performance by increasing safety and capacity and reducing long-term operating costs. It is the first time such a system has been deployed on an intercity route Britain and is hoped to stimulate further development on this line and others in the country.

The current timing is perfect and only comes along rarely. The last comprehensive upgrade to the train control system took place in the seventies and needs to be updated over Network Rail’s coming funding cycles (Control Periods). This coincides with many of the new trains that recently entered service on the line or are about to enter service to be equipped with this digital signalling technology.

The Managing Director of Group Digital Railway, David Waboso said:

“There is a compelling case for a digital transformation on this southern section of the East Coast Mainline. The big challenge of digital railway is the integration of the infrastructure and rolling stock, and with the need for asset renewal coming at the same time as 70% of passenger trains being fitted, we are presented with a huge opportunity to align track and train in an efficient way.

“The procurement is being done in a radically different way and which will build on the key learnings from our Early Contractor Involvement programme. We seek a long-term relationship based on genuine partnership, extending for the whole of the asset life.

“This will bring real benefits for passengers – a more reliable railway, expanded capacity, and better information systems for travellers.”

Route Managing Director for the LNE & EM route, Rob McIntosh, said:

“This is an extraordinary and exciting opportunity that will have a significant and sustained impact on the future of the railway and the economies and communities we serve. We are establishing a route transformation that will bring track and train closer together through the deployment of digital technologies. To achieve this, we are seeking a partner in the truest sense of the word; moving away from traditional input based procurement and instead buying a long-term relationship based on industry outcomes.”

Network Rail and the Secretary of State for Transport announced their digital strategy in May 2018. The installation of ETCS along the East Coast Main Line marks its first large-scale implementation.

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