First ETCS Level 2 Train Tested on UK Mainline

A Great Northern Class 717 train has become the first digitally signalled train to be operated on a UK mainline.

On 2 June, the vehicle ran in test conditions between Welwyn Garden City and Hitchin in Hertfordshire using European Train Control System (ETCS).

This technology sends signalling information directly to a computer screen in the driver’s cab to enable more reliable, efficient and sustainable rail operations.

First ETCS Level 2 test train
First ETCS Level 2 test train

The train was fitted with the required onboard technology to work with the digital signalling infrastructure on this section of the East Coast Main Line (ECML).

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.”

Testing on the route is taking place at night and at weekends to minimise disruption to passengers.

This process will continue until mid-2025 to establish the new system’s safety and reliability. The first passenger and freight digital signalling operations are then expected to commence shortly afterwards.

The process is being overseen by Siemens Mobility.

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.”

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