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27 March 2012
Network Rail has announced framework agreements with four suppliers for the development and design of a new, European-standard signalling system for Britain's railways. The successful suppliers are Signalling Solutions Ltd, Invensys Rail, Infrasig and Ansaldo STS.
Starting in April, the collaborative agreements cover a one-year development phase which will confirm the suppliers' design of a European Train Control System (ETCS) Level 2 signalling system. These will then be demonstrated on Network Rail's new testing facility on the Hertford loop with contracts for the delivery of the programme to be awarded in 2014.
ETCS is part of the European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS) – a tried and tested signalling system which will replace traditional line-side railway signals with a computer display inside every train cab, reducing the costs of maintaining the railway, improving performance and enhancing safety.
Andrew Simmons, Network Rail director, future trains and operation control systems, said: “As the number of passengers and companies that rely on Britain's railway continues to rise, the safety-critical systems we use to run a safe and efficient railway are more important than ever.
“ETCS is now a crucial part of our plans for resignalling the railway – our focus now is on building confidence and experience in the technology so that future schemes can be delivered seamlessly. These new frameworks are the building blocks to developing this capability and will allow us to work closely with our chosen suppliers to develop long-term plans for work to be carried out more quickly and efficiently.”
The first drive to install ERTMS will take place on the Great Western main line starting in 2016 as part of the large-scale resignalling of the line, coinciding with the arrival of new trains and electrification between London Paddington and Heathrow Airport, Oxford, Newbury and Bristol. The East Coast main line (commencing 2018) and Midland main line (commencing 2020) are scheduled to follow soon after.
With the aim to provide a safe, reliable and efficient rail infrastructure for freight and passenger operators, Network Rail is seeking to use technology which delivers the lowest whole-life asset costs. ETCS level 2 does not require line-side signals and is cheaper to install than conventional re-signalling. Network Rail and its industry partners have chosen ETCS as one of its recommended methods of re-signalling and have developed a plan for its deployment across the network.
Schemes in the near future include the Great Western main line between Paddington and Bristol, Oxford, Newbury and Heathrow Airport where the technology will be installed from 2016 and operated in parallel with conventional line-side signals until they are removed in 2025. It will be installed on the East Coast main line between Kings Cross and Doncaster from 2018 and then the Midland main line between Farringdon/St Pancras and Derby from 2020. There are also a number of smaller schemes to be carried out in association with the main line routes.
The plans for wider national rollout are being developed consistent with a targeted signalling renewal policy, Network Rail's operational strategy and the industry's train fleet fitment programme.