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First ETCS Level 2 test train with GTR's John Herriott in the driver's seat
First ETCS Level 2 test train with GTR's John Herriott in the driver's seat

Press release -

UK-first sees digitally signalled train driven on intercity mainline

In a UK-first, a rail industry partnership has successfully run a digitally signalled train on an intercity mainline route.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, 2 June, a Great Northern Class 717 ran in test conditions between Welwyn Garden City and Hitchin in Hertfordshire using European Train Control System (ETCS), which sends signalling information direct to a computer screen in the driver’s cab. ETCS will enable a more reliable, more efficient and greener railway for passengers and freight customers.

Sunday’s test was part of the early stages of an ongoing process to prove that the trains – already fitted with the necessary on-board technology – work with the new digital signalling infrastructure on this section of the East Coast Main Line (ECML). Testing is taking place overnight and at weekends to minimise disruption to passengers as much as possible.

The testing process will continue until mid-2025 to ensure complete assurance of the new system’s safety and reliability, with the first passenger and freight digital signalling operations expected to start soon afterwards.

The process will involve the breadth of the industry-wide partnership delivering the pioneering East Coast Digital Programme (ECDP). Train Control Partner Siemens Mobility is overseeing the testing process, working with the relevant train operating partners (initially Govia Thameslink Railway as the first train to be dynamically tested).

Oliver Turner, Head of ERTMS at Govia Thameslink Railway which operates Great Northern, said:

“We’re proud our Class 717 train and ERTMS team were instrumental to this landmark use of digital signalling on the East Coast Main Line.

“This weekend’s testing marks the very first step in an intensive testing process to ensure the system is safe. We are working closely with the rest of the industry to share the lessons we’ve learned – and continue to learn – from introducing and operating ETCS on the Northern City Line and Thameslink route across the heart of London.”

Ben Lane, Project Director for Siemens Mobility & Infrastructure Sector Lead ECDP, said:

“Following on from the success of the pathfinder project on the Northern City line, we are now deploying this technology on an intercity mainline in preparation for the commencement of driver training for all passenger and freight operating companies on the Programme.

“The first digitally signalled train movement on the Welwyn to Hitchin project is not only a big step for the ECDP, but also for the wider railway industry and future digital schemes.”

ENDS

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For more information, contact the press office on 0203 750 2031.

Govia Thameslink Railway

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) operates Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express services as follows:

  • Thameslink – cross-London services between Bedford/Peterborough/Cambridge and Brighton/Horsham/East Grinstead, and between Luton/St Albans and Sutton/Wimbledon/Rainham; plus services between London and Sevenoaks
  • Great Northern – services between London and Welwyn, Hertford, Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn
  • Southern – services between London and the Sussex coast (Brighton, Worthing, Eastbourne, Bognor Regis, Hastings) and parts of Surrey, Kent and Hampshire (Ashford International, Southampton, Portsmouth)
  • Gatwick Express – fast, non-stop direct services between Gatwick Airport and London Victoria

www.southernrailway.com, www.thameslinkrailway.com, www.gatwickexpress.com, www.greatnorthernrail.com

Govia Thameslink Railway
United Kingdom