World-First for Automatic Train Operation on Mainline Railway

Govia Thameslink Railway, working with Network Rail and Siemens, have scored a world-first by running Automatic Train Operation (ATO) over European Train Control System (ETCS) on the mainline railway in passenger service.

On Saturday, 17 March, southbound 8-car Thameslink train 700019, destination Three Bridges, brought itself to a halt automatically at London St Pancras International at 13.53 having transitioned into ETCS Level 2 Full Supervision and then ATO on its approach from Kentish Town.

With the driver checking the platforms, closing the doors and then selecting ATO again, the train with its in-cab signalling then continued under automatic control through Farringdon, City Thameslink and London Blackfriars. It finally transitioned out of the system on its exit from London Blackfriars, as it headed towards Elephant & Castle.

Automatic Train Operation
Photo Credit: Govia Thameslink Railway

GTR’s Systems Integration Manager Jim Doughty, said:

This is a real world-first and I’m delighted. It is the culmination of a programme of work that that we have been involved in since the start of our franchise three years ago and which has been running continuously since the start of the £7bn Government-sponsored Thameslink Programme. It is critical to our RailPlan20/20 modernisation programme to modernise the busiest part of the UK rail network.

Saturday’s run followed nearly two years of on-track testing and, working flawlessly, it has pathed the way for further runs. These runs will not only help build industry confidence in the system but also facilitate the commencement of the delivery of a world class training package to our drivers in readiness for the increase in services.

This cutting-edge system will allow us to run our final high intensity Thameslink service of up to 24 trains per hour each way with 70% more seats through the centre of London, linking new communities and cutting journey times for thousands of passengers.

Automatic Train Operation in Passenger Service

Working with Network Rail and Siemens, GTR has run nearly 200 night and day shifts of testing since April 2016 when it began proving ETCS dynamically at Network Rail’s ETCS National Integration Facility at Hertford North in April 2016 and has had to demonstrate to the ORR that it has made the necessary amendments to its Health & Safety Management System to allow for the trains to operate in both ETCS & Automatic Train Operation in passenger service.

Saturday’s success is a milestone for the rail industry on its digital railway journey. Network Rail completely replaced the signalling in the central London Thameslink ‘core’, allowing trains to safely travel closer together, increasing capacity, and installed ETCS; Network Rail has continued to manage the systems integration for track and train. Siemens have provided the ETCS and the ATO-enabled train, the Class 700 Desiro City.

Martin Chatfield, Network Rail Project Director for High Capacity Infrastructure, said:

Seeing the first UK mainline train running in Automatic Train Operation for passenger services is a truly momentous day for the Thameslink Programme High Capacity Infrastructure Team, and the wider industry teams that have been involved. This underlines the combined efforts of Network Rail, the supply chain, and the train operators over the past five years to reach this point. It not only proves the digital railway technology within the heavy rail environment, but it also demonstrates that an industry approach is the way to solving railway capacity issues in the future.

Mark Ferrer, Operations Director Digital Rail, Siemens said:

This brings to life the hard work and commitment from the entire team, including Siemens, Network Rail and GTR, proving the operation of digital signalling on a critical part of the railway infrastructure and realising the future of train control. The introduction of this technology, which was developed and delivered in the UK, maintains the UK’s position as a world leader in the application of technological solutions to the train control infrastructure, something that as an industry we aim to build on and further deploy.

Original press release credit: Govia Thameslink Railway


Get your news featured on Railway-News

Please fill in the contact form opposite. A member of the team will be in touch shortly.

    We'd love to send you the latest news and information from the world of Railway-News. Please tick the box if you agree to receive them.

    For your peace of mind here is a link to our Privacy Policy.

    By submitting this form, you consent to allow Railway-News to store and process this information.

    Follow Railway-News on LinkedIn
    Follow Railway-News on Twitter