Industry urged to get behind ETCS digital signalling

The challenge of introducing in-cab-only ‘moving block’ signalling on a busy main line “is worth it - but everyone must own the project”.

That’s the message from Toufic Machnouk, Director, Industry Partnership for Digital Railway at Network Rail. Backing him up, NR Chairman Sir Peter Hendy CBE is calling on the industry for “everyone to share a bit of optimism”.

Speaking at the Digital Signalling: East Coast and Beyond event, organised by Network Rail and attended by 563 people, Machnouk said that whereas building the European Train Control System (ETCS) into a new railway such as HS2 is “pretty straightforward”, for NR the challenge is to “transition a complex and fragmented operation that’s been this way for decades”. 

He asked: “Frankly, is the challenge worth it?” And he replied that the answer is ‘yes’, adding: “Digital signalling achieves far more for less. It’s almost half the unit cost and half the access requirements, so how can we afford not to?”

Drawing on his experience at Transport for London, where digital signalling is being rolled out under the Four Lines Modernisation, Hendy said cost benefits are crucial. He cited the Victoria Line’s digital signalling, where “we run more trains, more reliably than anybody had imagined during the investment case”.

Accepting that ECTS Level 2 on a mixed-use railway is different from a metro-style operation, Hendy added: “The overall point is delivering more services, more reliably, by using modern technology on an existing railway.”

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  • Güntürk Üstün - 19/11/2022 00:05

    The European Train Control System (ETCS) is the signalling and control component of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS). It is a replacement for legacy train protection systems and designed to replace the many incompatible safety systems currently used by European railways. The standard was also adopted outside Europe and is an option for worldwide application. In technical terms it is a type of Positive Train Control (PTC). After the introduction of ETCS on the Wherry Lines in 2020, a nation-wide rollout of the new signalling was planned by Network Rail. This upgrade would be carried out in stages, with each of the twelve Rail Operating Centres being upgraded at different times. Dr. Güntürk Üstün

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    • D - 07/12/2022 23:38

      Just a minor clarification - my company was involved in ETCS studies for the Wherry Lines but the conversion to ETCS was cancelled and replaced by 'conventional' signalling.

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