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Northern City Line working under ETCS

posted on 1st Jan 2024 16:26

On 11 December 2023 Rail Minister Huw Merriman celebrated the start of digitally signalled passenger services on one of Great Northern's busy London commuter lines. Digital signalling on the Northern City Line (NCL), from Finsbury Park to Moorgate in the City of London, is the first stage in the pioneering 1.4 billion GBP East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP). The latter is progressively introducing a digital railway, where traditional ‘lights on sticks’ will be removed and technology delivers more reliable and more punctual journeys on one of Britain’s leading intercity routes.

Huw saw the ETCS technology first hand as he travelled in the cab of the 10.07 h Finsbury Park to Moorgate service, before visiting Great Northern’s Hornsey depot in north London. He saw the simulator facilities where drivers are being trained on ETCS, and he thanked the combined Network Rail, Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and Siemens project team that have delivered the ground breaking transition.

The start of migration to ETCS on the NCL follows various phases of testing and a series of regulatory approvals. It has been the highlight of a year of progress on ECDP, including:
- progressing the installation of new equipment and technology between Welwyn and Hitchin, ready for the introduction of the first ETCS services on the East Coast Main Line in Phase Two of the ECDP,
- retrofitting ETCS to the first freight train in a national programme, and the first commuter train from the large ‘Electrostar’ fleet,
- awarding a contract for the upgrade of Britain’s largest train fleet, the Siemens Class 700, to the latest version of ETCS. This is a key enabler to rolling out digital signalling on other key routes like the Brighton Main Line and Midland Main Line,
- delivering an extensive range of ‘full cab’ and desk top based driver simulators with digital signalling capability, to enable nearly 3,000 train drivers to be trained to drive with digital signalling.

The ECDP will see the first introduction of ETCS to an intercity mainline in Great Britain, and will provide the foundation for the future expansion of digital signalling across the network. ETCS is currently in use in the central London section of Thameslink and on the Cambrian Line in Wales, and now on the Northern City Line (Finsbury Park to Moorgate), in the first stage of ECDP.

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