First Passenger Trains Run to City of London with Digital Signalling

The first trains have carried passengers to the City of London using European Train Control System (ETCS) digital signalling.

This marks a significant milestone for the 1.4 billion GBP East Coast Digital Programme, which aims to make rail services more reliable and more sustainable through the implementation of digital signalling.

Project lead and qualified driver Oliver Turner joined the team during the first runs of the day
Project lead and qualified driver Oliver Turner joined the team during the first runs of the day

The first digitally signalled Great Northern passenger train operated between Finsbury Park and Moorgate on 27 November after Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), Network Rail and Siemens Mobility switched on the system.

Following this achievement, additional trains will gradually commence operations using digital signalling as more Great Northern drivers are trained to use the technology.

Traditional signals will remain at the side of the track until training is complete and the old system can be decommissioned.

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.”

In-cab digital signalling helps trains run more efficiently by allowing drivers to ‘see’ much further ahead.

As a result, drivers using digital ETCS are not reliant on information to ‘stop’ or ‘go’ at signals, but instead, are able to drive according to a target speed set by the system in their cab. This system is kept continually updated about the location of other trains by a series of beacons installed along the track.

Through the East Coast Digital Programme, this solution is being installed on the East Coast Mainline from London to north of Peterborough. This programme also provides the foundations for the expansion of digital signalling across the wider UK network.

The next phase of the programme will introduce digital signalling between Welwyn Garden City and Hitchin on the East Coast Mainline, with the first digitally signalled trains expected to operate on this section of the route by the end of 2025.

Ed Akers, Network Rail’s Principal Programme Sponsor, ECDP, 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.”

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