posted on 29th Nov 2023 11:45
On 27 November 2023 Great Northern commuters began travelling to the City of London in trains controlled by on-board ETCS. This is a significant milestone for the £1.4bn government-funded East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP), set to improve journeys along the East Coast Mainline, from London to north of Peterborough, providing the foundations for the expansion of digital signalling across the UK network.
The first digitally signalled passenger train operated on the Northern City Line between Finsbury Park and Moorgate after parent company Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), Network Rail and Siemens Mobility switched on the system. Introducing digital signalling on this busy commuter line is an important first stage in the ECDP, which will see the first introduction of digital ETCS to an intercity mainline in Great Britain.
Progressively, more trains will operate with digital signalling, as more Great Northern drivers are trained to use the technology. Traditional signals will be kept at the side of the track until everyone is trained and the old system can be switched off. 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.”
The next phase of the ECDP will see digital signalling introduced between Welwyn Garden City and Hitchin, on the East Coast Mainline. The first digitally signalled trains are expected to operate on this section of the route by the end of 2025.
A total of 12 round trips were made on 27 November in passenger service using the ETCS between Finsbury Park and Moorgate. More will follow as testing and commissioning drivers and driver managers prepare themselves to train regular drivers in the New Year. The Northern City Line is the first phase of the East Coast Digital Programme, which will see the first introduction of the to an intercity mainline in Great Britain, and will provide the foundation for the future expansion of digital signalling across the network.
Installation of ETCS on the Northern City Line has been in development since 2020, and has, until now, been tested only on trains out of passenger hours. In-cab signalling provided by ETCS Level 2 operation supplies continual speed information and movement authority to the driver via a computer screen in the driver’s cab, rather than relying on fixed lineside signals.
Traditional signals will be kept at the side of the track on the Northern City Line until all 250 Great Northern drivers are trained and the old system can be switched off. Having the two systems working side-by-side during the training programme means trained drivers will be able to continue using digital ETCS alongside their untrained colleagues once they are qualified, ensuring they maintain their competency.